The Cabinet reshuffle exercise undertaken by the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in consultation with the Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday can at best be termed as a big disappointment.
It has failed to send any positive political message and has demonstrated beyond any doubt that the Prime Minister's desire to assert himself remains a theoretical notion. The much-hyped rejig is being seen in political circles as a surgical operation that has gone wrong.
The surgeon has apparently left his scissors and forceps in the patient's stomach thereby increasing the risk of post surgical complications.
In January, Manmohan Singh after revamping his Cabinet had stated that he would go in for a major exercise at the end of the budget session. It was obvious that he was not happy with what he had done.
Therefore, there was hope in many quarters that the Prime Minister will be able to correct the sagging image of his government, which is facing serious charges of corruption and suffers from both lack of cohesiveness and the will to make course correction.
The reshuffle has in fact paved the way for a fresh round of allegations against the PM that he was merely a puppet. This is largely because not only has he been unable to touch the big four ministers but not anybody of any consequence at all.
Most of his ministers retain their original portfolios and many have ended up with additional charges.
Anand Sharma has got the textiles portfolio temporarily and Vilasrao Deshmukh whose alleged involvement in the Adarsh scam was under the scanner has been given science and technology in place of rural development that has been allotted to controversial environment minister Jairam Ramesh on his elevation.
It is true that MS Gill, Murli Deora and some others have been dropped but they have no incremental political value. Deora's son, Milind has been accommodated. But he is seen not as someone who has come in his place.
He and Jitendra Singh, are nominees of Rahul Gandhi. In a time, the Congress general secretary has found a foothold in the council of ministers with two of his closest friends and aides. They are the only two young faces this time and the reason for their inclusion is their proximity to Rahul.
After the 2009 victory, many people were surprised when Salman Khursheed and Beni Prasad Verma were not included in the Union Cabinet. Khursheed was elevated in January and Verma has been given the cabinet rank now. The logic put forward is that the UP polls are around the corner. But one fails to understand why similar consideration has not been shown in case of Punjab, which also goes to polls next year.
Jayanthi Natarajan has been on the political sidelines for years and finds her way in the council of ministers despite the fact that Tamil Nadu polls are over. It is therefore not certain whether it is a reward for services rendered to the party leadership in Delhi or the party in her state, which failed, miserably in the recently concluded polls.
It is difficult to gauge at this point whether the PM is fully satisfied with what he has done. He has said it is his last reshuffle. Does this mean that we are headed for early elections?