Blend of youth and experience in induction

April 6th, 2008 - 10:30 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, April 6 (IANS) In an effort to refurbish the image of the Congress party and his government, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Sunday reshuffled his council of ministers inducting young faces and veterans ahead of crucial assembly elections scheduled later this year. Seven ministers of state were inducted into the council of ministers. Former chief election commissioner M.S. Gill was the only one given independent charge of sports and youth affairs.

Among others sworn in at a ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan were young MPs Jyotiraditya Scindia and Jitin Prasada, former Congress Puducherry chief V.N. Narayanswamy, industrialist-turned-politician Sanjay Bagrodia, former police official Rameshwar Oraon and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) MP Raghunath Jha.

Scindia as minister of state has been given the charge of IT and communications.

Paving the way for the new ministers as well as a revamp in the Congress party structure, six ministers resigned from the council of ministers.

They are Suresh Pachouri, minister of state for personnel, Dasari Narayan Rao (coal), M.V. Rajasekharan (planning), T. Subbirami Reddy (mines), Akhilesh Das (steel) and Manikrao Gavit (home).

After a wait of four long years, the youth brigade got a chance to be part of the government as the induction of the young MPs as ministers of state is an attempt to give shape to the party’s plans of building a team of Young Turks in governance.

The drive to mobilize youths began with the appointment of Rahul Gandhi as a Congress general secretary in September 2007. Party insiders pointed out that the induction of Scindia and Prasada takes this process ahead.

With this induction that is perhaps Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s last reshuffle, the total strength of the council of ministers has gone up to 80.

“We needed some young and experienced faces to help the people and that is why this expansion,” Manmohan Singh told reporters later after the reshuffle.

When asked about the non-inclusion of Rahul Gandhi, Singh said, “Rahul is an important leader for us and has desired to work for the party.”

Even Congress president Sonia Gandhi said her son was offered a ministerial berth but “Rahul wanted to focus on the responsibilities the party has given to him.”

Crucial assembly elections are scheduled later this year in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir.

Scindia, who represents the Guna constituency in Madhya Pradesh, is expected to give a boost to the Congress’ poll campaign in the central state. Also Santosh Bagrodia, from Rajasthan that is going to polls later this year, is expected to boost the party’s chances there.

The reshuffle also fills gaps created by the Congress party’s earlier moves to shore up its organizational work.

Vyalar Ravi, Congress MP from Kerala, gets additional charge of parliamentary affairs. Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi, who still retains the I& B ministry was earlier put in charge of West Bengal. Pachouri is moving to Madhya Pradesh as the state party chief.

The reshuffle is also aimed at toning up the government’s performance in crucial sectors of governance.

The Manmohan Singh government wants to improve its delivery mechanisms of crucial developmental schemes like the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) and some of the other flagship social sector programmes.

Gill, with his experience as former chief election commissioner, is expected to give important inputs in this regard.

Jairam Ramesh, minister of state for commerce, has been given additional charge of power.

Raghunath Jha of RJD, an important constituent of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), has also been brought into the cabinet.

With an eye on tribal votes, Rameshawar Oraon, tribal MP from Jharkhand, a first-timer in the Lok Sabha, was also rewarded with a ministerial berth.

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