Age triumphs over youth in Manmohan’s new ministry

May 27th, 2009 - 9:48 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, May 27 (IANS) Despite the presence of a large numbers of young MPs to choose from, only seven of those below 40 have found a place in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s council of ministers that is dominated by party veterans.
Agatha Sangma, 28-year-old daughter of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader and former Lok Sabha speaker P.A. Sangma, is the youngest member of the new ministry.

A lawyer by profession, she hopes to get the rural development ministry when the portfolios are announced after the swearing-in ceremony in Rashtrapati Bhavan Thursday morning.

“I am privileged and since this is my first opportunity, I will not be choosy. Whatever position I am given, I will be happy,” the first-time minister, who hails from Meghalaya, told IANS.

The inclusion of barely a handful of young ministers has, however, surprised many as the 15th Lok Sabha has as many as 82 MPs falling in the 25-40 age bracket. The Congress alone has 27 young faces.

Congress MPs - Jitin Prasada, Sachin Pilot, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Prateek Patil, R.P.N. Singh and Arun Yadav - are among the lucky few who got that elusive call to join the council of ministers.

All of them are in their 30s and owe their new position as ministers of state to Rahul Gandhi, the 39-year-old Congress MP from Amethi and the star campaigner for the party, who has taken a lead in rejuvenating his party with young blood through talent-hunts and holding internal elections.

Rahul himself stayed away from the government despite a public invitaion from the prime minister.

Apart from Scindia and Prasada, all the other young guns are first-time ministers.

Son of late Congress veteran Madhavrao Scindia, Jyotiraditya, 37, enjoys trust and friendship of the Gandhi family. He is part of Rahul Gandhi’s inner circle and has rooted for the Gandhi scion as a future prime minister.

An alumnus of Doon School and Harvard University, Scindia first became MP at 31 after winning from Guna, the family pocket borough represented by his father, in 2002. He was re-elected in 2004 and was later named minister of state for Communications and IT April 6, 2008. He won by a handsome margin from Guna again this year.

Jitin Prasada, 35-year-old son of late Congress leader Jitendra Prasada and a close confidant of Rahul Gandhi, is no stranger to governance.

He was minister of state for steel in the previous government. A second-time MP, he won elections from Dhaurhara this year. Prasada is seen as an emerging Congress leader in Uttar Pradesh at a time when the party is looking for a revival in the Hindi heartland.

He played a crucial role in getting the Samajwadi Party (SP) to back the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in the July 22 trust vote in parliament after the Left parties tried to topple the ruling coalition over the India-US civilian nuclear deal.

Sachin Pilot, the 32-year-old Congress MP from Ajmer, was a natural choice. Son of late Congress stalwart Rajesh Pilot, the young MP has worked tirelessly for farmers in Rajasthan and won by 76,000 votes from Ajmer.

In 2004 Pilot, an alumnus of the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, created history by becoming the youngest MP in the country at the age of 26. The suave, articulate debater is one of the young television faces of the grand old party.

The 36-year-old Prateek Patil is a bit of a surprise. Patil is the grandson of late Maharashtra chief minister Vasantdada Patil and son of late Congress MP Prakash Patil.

R.P.N. Singh represents Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh, and Arun Yadav, 36, Khandwa in Madhya Pradesh.

Ajay Maken, 45, and Vincent Pala, 41, are among the young leaders who are set to be sworn in as ministers of state Thursday.

The 78-member council of ministers includes 33 cabinet ministers and 45 ministers of state, who were named after three days of intense negotiations.

The average age of the 78-member council is 57. External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna is the oldest member in the council. He is 77.

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