The reshuffle in the Union council of ministers on Wednesday brought good news to some and left a few disheartened.
Vilasrao Deshmukh, who was in the dock over allegations of his involvement in the Adarsh Housing scam and strictures passed by the Supreme Court over shielding a moneylender in Vidarbha, has emerged as the most powerful Maharashtra Congressman in the Union cabinet.
Earlier, Prithviraj Chavan, who came to the state as chief minister after Ashok Chavan resigned, held this position.
Contrary to expectations in the rival camp, Deshmukh walked away with his head held high and with the significant rural development ministry. “I started my political career as a village sarpanch and then worked as minister and chief minister,” Deshmukh said. “My leaders know that I have a great experience in this sector.”
At the same time, Congress’s alliance partner, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), had little to cheer about. The party lost two significant portfolios — civil aviation and food and civil supplies.
After facing flak for failure to control the price rise, Sharad Pawar had offered to give up the food and civil supplies ministry. In the reshuffle, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gave the NCP president the less significant food processing ministry.
Another blow to the party was when high-profile minister Praful Patel didn’t get the civil aviation ministry, though he was elevated to cabinet rank.
Patel will now have to be satisfied with the heavy industries ministry.
"I am happy to become a cabinet minister. It is important to rise in hierarchy...It is certainly very important personally and politically to become a cabinet minister,” Patel told mediapersons.
The NCP, however, is not in a position to complain. It now has two cabinet berths and one junior minister in the Union government, though the party has only eight members in Parliament.
Not surprisingly, Mumbai’s Murli Deora was divested of the petroleum ministry that he held for five years and given charge of corporate affairs ministry.
That Deora would lose the petroleum ministry was already being talked about in New Delhi. Still, he managed to get a portfolio that has significance in power circles.
Deora said the change of job didn’t upset him. “I worked with great enthusiasm in the petroleum ministry. I will continue to do so in the new ministry as well.”
As far as other Congress ministers from the state are concerned, the party leadership as well as Singh showed faith in all of them.
Power minister Sushilkumar Shinde and social justice minister Mukul Wasnik were not disturbed. In minister of state ranks, Mumbai’s Gurudas Kamat got a sensitive home ministry. Mumbaiites can hope that Kamat will use his position to make the city better equipped to counter terrorism. Pratik Patil got coal ministry, a bit significant than the sport department that he held before.