The latest cabinet reshuffle, probably the last before the next Lok Sabha elections, has given some breathing time to the Manmohan Singh government to put its act together ahead of next month’s winter session of Parliament.
However, it is doubtful that the much-hyped exercise, which was essentially Congress-specific, will contribute to changing the overall negative perception of the UPA 2 ministry.
Therefore, it is important that the Prime Minister’s new team addresses issues that have put both the party and its government on the defensive over the past few years.
Both corruption and price rise are two points on which the civil society and the Opposition have sought to attack the government.
With several controversial ministers or those who have been accused of wrongdoing still continuing in the government, the message that the Prime Minister was serious in tackling this problem has not come out strongly.
While it is little early to pass any judgement on those who have been elevated or given new responsibilities, the minority government has to project itself as the “government that works” if it has to survive successfully the remaining period of its tenure.
Some of the changes are on expected lines as is evident from Ajay Maken, Harish Rawat, Ashwani Kumar and Palam Raju being promoted to the cabinet rank and Jyotirditya Scindia, Manish Tewari and Sachin Pilot getting independent charge of important ministries.
But Salman Khurshid’s elevation as the foreign minister has come rather late. Many had expected him to head the MEA after the 2009 elections when he was inducted into the ministry as a minister of state.
What is going to be more important than the cabinet reshuffle is the anticipated revamp of the Congress party, which is likely to take place soon.
It is, in fact, the composition of the new team at the AICC, which will determine how the party proposes to face fresh challenges with Rahul Gandhi, too, expected to play a much bigger role.
The new AICC will reflect the core team of Rahul with some experienced leaders getting key positions depending on their compatibility with the younger Gandhi.
In this context, it is to be seen as to who out of Rahul’s hand-picked people make it to the AICC and who out of those who have played a major role in the functioning of the party are able to survive this revamping.
Ambika Soni till recently the information and broacasting minister, who has been Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary in the past, and Mukul Wasnik, who also resigned from the ministry recently, are likely to be crucial players once again.
Some young faces could also be accommodated in this exercise.