Prime Minister Manmohan Singh inducted seven first-timers in junior slots in his council of ministers on Sunday. By no means sweeping, the changes were necessitated by the need to induct fresh blood, fill up ministerial slots vacated by two outgoing Rajya Sabha members and rid certain departments of problems caused by personality clashes.
<b1>The reshuffle-cum-expansion at once saw the exit of six ministers of state while bringing on board RS member and former CEC Manohar Singh Gill, Guna MP Jyotiraditya Madhavrao Scindia and Jitin Prasada, who represents UP’s Shahjahanpur in the Lower House.
In an essentially Congress-centric exercise, V Narayanasamy, Santosh Bagrodia and Rameshwar Oraon were also sworn in as ministers of state. The seventh MoS, Raghunath Jha, is from Lalu Yadav’s RJD.
Gill has been given independent charge of the sports and youth affairs ministry that under Mani Shankar Aiyar was at loggerheads with the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), whose president Suresh Kalmadi is also the chairman of the organising committee for the 2010 Commonweath Games.
The ministers who quit include Suresh Pachauri and MV Rajasekharan. The former will work full time as MP state unit chief and the latter could not be re-elected to the Upper House in the absence of an assembly in Karnataka where elections are due in May.
The parliamentary affairs portfolio of which PR Dasmunsi has been divested while retaining I&B goes to Kerala’s Vayalar Ravi, who will continue to be Cabinet Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs. He will be assisted in the parliamentary affairs ministry by MoS Finance PK Bansal and Narayanasamy who gets the additional charge of planning while continuing in the AICC as general secretary. Pachauri’s charge of Personnel goes to Prithviraj Chavan, MoS in the PM’s office who too has several organisational responsibilities.
When asked whether the reshuffle was his last, Singh said there was no finality in such things. In fact, some major cabinet changes might take place in May in the event of a leadership change in Maharashtra where immediate action was deferred on account of the ongoing Assembly session. Highly placed sources told Hindustan Times that chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh may be brought to the Centre if Power Minister Sushilkumar Shinde is shifted to Mumbai.
By that time, the Karnataka poll results would be known. Some aspirants from the southern state may be accommodated if the Congress succeeds in wresting power there.
The temporary charge MoS Commerce Jairam Ramesh has got in the power ministry under Shinde also appears to be linked to the impending changes in the western state. Sources said even MoS Chemicals and Fertilisers BK Handique’s concurrent assignment in the mines ministry was temporary.
Apart from Scindia and Prasada, Dausa MP Sachin Pilot could also have made the grade as a young face from poll bound Rajasthan. But the spanner in the works for late Rajesh Pilot’s son was another gujjar leader, Avtar Singh Badana who reportedly asserted his seniority to scuttle Sachin’s induction. The gainer in the end was RS member Bagrodia who also hails from Rajasthan.
When quizzed about Sachin’s exclusion, Congress president Sonia Gandhi cited the compulsions of coalition that did not permit large-scale induction of young faces. However, his consolation could be a formal role in the party organization.
Of the six exits, the ones who were dropped are Dasari Narayan Rao, T Subbarami Reddy and Akhilesh Das. For his part, Manikrao Gavit readily acceded to Sonia’s request to make way for a younger candidate—-Jharkhand’s Oraon who, like Gavit, is a tribal. This new entrant’s other qualification is his IPS background and the role he played in LK Advani’s 1990 arrest at Samastipur during his Ram rath yatra.
Aimed ostensibly at rightsizing Andhra Pradesh’s presence at the Centre, the exit of Rao and Reddy could also see the entry of some new face from the Congress-ruled state in the next exercise. In any case, the duo got fresh terms as RS members before being asked to shed their ministerial roles.