Politicians are averse to travelling light as ministers. But Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has reversed the trend, albeit partially, towards good, micro governance.
The leviathan shipping and surface transport ministry, the DMK had in the previous UPA regime, has been split into two: Kamal Nath getting road transport and highways and Tamil Nadu Congressman G K Vasan shipping. Very much linked to the segregation of these departments is Singh’s decision to retain culture and assign tourism to Kumari Selja.
At the root of the new work distribution is the mishandling of the Ram Sethu controversy — by the shipping, law and culture ministries — that hit the Sethusamudaram ship canal project across the Palk Strait.
“The PM doesn’t want a repeat of it. That’s why he has retained the culture and made Vasan succeed the DMK’s T.R. Baalu as shipping minister,” explained a Congress official.
Requesting anon-ymity, he recalled the atheist DMK’s reckless statements (from which engineering college did Lord Ram graduate?) and the culture department’s affidavit before the Supreme Court describing Lord Ram as a ‘mythical’ figure.
The fiasco embarrassed the Congress while giving the BJP a talking point to attempt Hindu polarization.
Coalition compulsions have prevented Singh from making his number three in the Cabinet, the NCP’s Sharad Pawar, lighten his workload as agriculture, food, civil supplies, consumer affairs and public distribution minister. But with Ram Vilas Paswan’s exit, the oddly clubbed steel and chemicals and fertilizers ministries stand distributed between Virbhadra Singh and M K Azhagiri.
Singh has also broken the tradition by denying parliamentary affairs minister P K Bansal the additional ministry that kept his predecessors busy when parliament wasn’t sitting. Also, rural development minister C P Joshi, corporate affairs minister Salman Khursheed and coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal hold “additional charge” of panchayati raj, statistics and programme implementation and minority affairs ministries.
It means they’d have to give up these portfolios once the PM finds suitable candidates for vacancies in his government.