Something old, something new in recast Team Manmohan (Afternoon Lead)

July 12th, 2011 - 3:35 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, July 12 (IANS) The long awaited reshuffle of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s council of ministers Tuesday saw changes in some major portfolios with Salman Khursheed taking over law and Dinesh Trivedi railways, new inductees like Jayanthi Natarajan, who was appointed to the environment ministry, and seven ministers getting the axe.

The ‘big four’ - Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, Defence Minister A.K. Antony and Home Minister P. Chidambaram - have been left untouched in the exercise to draft a new Team Manmohan.

The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) forwarded to President Pratibha Patil a list of 13 people to be appointed to his council, some of whom like Jairam Ramesh were being elevated and eight new faces. The ministers will be administered the oath of office at Rashtrapati Bhavan Tuesday evening.

The reshuffle, the second in the United Progressive Alliance II government after the first one in January, accommodates ally Trinamool Congress by giving the key portfolio of railways to Dinesh Trivedi, who takes over as a full fledged minister after Mamata Banerjee was sworn in as West Bengal chief minister.

Sudip Bandopadhyay of the party also makes his debut as minister of state for health and family welfare. However, Mukul Roy has been relieved as minister of state for railways, a day after he ignored Manmohan Singh’s directive to visit a train derailment site in Assam. He retains his job as the junior minister in the shipping ministry.

The other key ally, DMK, figures nowhere, with Dayanidhi Maran’s resignation accepted as union textiles minister following allegations of involvement in the 2G spectrum scam.

With A. Raja also having gone, this has reduced the DMK’s presence in the council of ministers to four — M.K. Azhagiri (chemicals and fertilisers), S.S. Palanimanickam (finance), D. Napoleon (social justice) and S. Gandhiselvan (health).

E. Ahamed of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), which is pivotal to the survival of the Congress in Kerala, is back as minister of state for external affairs and also gets human resource development (HRD).

The primary charge of the HRD ministry continues to rest with Kapil Sibal, who also holds the communications and IT portfolio. In a father-son swap, senior leader Murli Deora is out of the cabinet, and his son Milind in as minister of state for communications and IT.

In the environment ministry, Jairam Ramesh has been replaced by Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan and elevated as cabinet minister in-charge of rural development.

Ramesh replaces Vilasrao Deshmukh, who has been shifted to the science and technology and earth sciences ministry.

Amongst the other biggies, Salman Khursheed gets law from M. Veerappa Moily, who has been made corporate affairs minister; Beni Prasad Verma, who was minister of state for steel with independent charge, has been elevated as cabinet minister in charge of the same ministry.

The other new cabinet minister is V. Kishore Chandra Deo, who will take care of tribal affairs and Panchayati Raj.

Joining Deo, Milind Deora, Bandopadhyay and Natarajan are four other fresh faces.

These are Assam leader Paban Singh Ghatowar, who will be minister of state independent charge (Development of North Eastern Region), and three ministers of state - Congress’ lone Lok Sabha MP from Chhattisgarh Charan Singh Mahant (agriculture and food processing); high profile Rajiv Shukla (parliamentary affairs) and the understated Jitendra Singh (home), who is a close aide of party general secretary Rahul Gandhi.

The others, whose resignations have been forwarded with the recommendation that they be accepted, are DMK’s Dayanidhi Maran as well as M.S. Gill, B.K. Handique, Kanti Lal Bhuria, A. Sai Prathap and Arun S. Yadav.

According to N. Bhaskar Rao, analyst at the Centre for Media Studies: “The cabinet reshuffle is nothing to get excited about as it does not indicate any direction or any special initiative from the government.

“Some new talent has come in but there is nothing else to say except that the environment ministry which was being headed by a person who had been causing heartburn to many industries and their investors has been shifted. Other than that there is no major change. “

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