The much awaited re-shuffle of the union cabinet has failed to send any clear message that the UPA government is serious about tackling the malaise that afflicts its functioning. The rejig has reinforced the belief that the government is being jointly run by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi notwithstanding the political gossip that relationship between the two was not as cordial as it used to be.
Singh, who had a chance to redeem his image by bringing in fresh talent from the party and outside it, has not been able to do so. It is obvious that he has decided to settle for the status quo in order not to disturb his own government. The fact that the reshuffle has taken place after four meetings between him and Gandhi also demonstrates that the two compromised with each other's interests to accommodate or drop various individuals.
The logic of promoting Beni Prasad Verma to cabinet rank and giving a better portfolio to Salman Khursheed is being seen as a positive move ahead of Uttar Pradesh elections next year. However, not much thinking has gone into the preparations for the poll bound states, as no new person has been included from Punjab, which also goes to polls early next year. Instead, Manohar Singh Gill, a deadwood of no political consequence, has been dropped.
The promise to have new and fresh faces has been filled by inducting Jitendra Singh (JTS) and Miland Deora. Both of them are considered very close to Rahul Gandhi and for the first time the young general secretary’s nominees are a part of the council of ministers.
The contradictions within the cabinet continue as Jairam Ramesh, the controversial environment minister has been kicked up to a Cabinet rank with the Rural development portfolio. Jayanti Natrajan, the Congress spokesperson, replaces him with the rank of minister of state. Her inclusion could raise some eyebrows since Tamil Nadu polls are over and she does not bring in any incremental political value to the government.
New debutants include Rajiv Shukla. Many ministers who were holding more than one portfolio have not been touched.