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UPA-II government goes for major facelift

Published on 28 Oct. 2012 11:50 PM IST
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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the new cabinet is a combination of youth and experience and hoped it would be the last one before the next general election scheduled in 2014. President Pranab Mukherjee administered the oath of office to 22 ministers, including seven of them with cabinet rank.

“It is a combination of youth and experience,” Manmohan Singh told reporters after the swearing ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhawan. Ruling out early elections, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Sunday’s expansion of his Council of Ministers would probably be the last.

“I don’t see early elections. Elections will be held in due course,” he told reporters at the Rashtrapati Bhawan after the swearing-in ceremony.

When asked about ministers who quit giving way for others, the prime minister said: “The party needs men and women of experience to strengthen it. They will be equally productive in the party.”

On his priorities in the next few months, Manmohan Singh said: “The road ahead is full of challenges.” The prime minister was hopeful that this was the last reshuffle before the 2014 general elections. He ruled out early election saying they will be held in due course of time.

Salman Khurshid Sunday took over as is India’s new external affairs minister from S.M Krishna. Khurshid had served as minister of state (junior foreign minister) under prime minister P V Narasimha Rao in the nineties.

Several portfolios were changed, some new faces introduced, some elevated to cabinet rank and at least one old hand- Shashi Tharoor - was back in what is possibly UPA II’s last facelift, an exercise that jettisoned tainted ministers like Subodh Kant Sahay and roped veterans like Ambika Soni and S.M. Krishna back into the party organization to gear up for the 2014 electoral battle.

Of the seven new ministers sworn in with cabinet rank, two are debutants -- former deputy chairperson of the Rajya Sabha K. Rehman Khan and Congress MP Chandresh Kumari Katoch.

The other five, Ajay Maken, M.M. Pallam Raju, Dinsha Patel, Harish Rawat and Ashwini Kumar, have been elevated to the cabinet from ministers of state rank.

Khurshid’s ministry of law went to Ashwani Kumar. There were also three new faces from West Bengal - Adhir R. Chowdhury, Deepa Dasmunsi and A.H. Khan Chowdhury, all known to be fiercely opposed to state chief minister Mamata Banerjee, whose Trinamool Congress broke ranks with the ruling coalition recently to bring about several ministerial Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the apex industry chamber, welcomed the reshuffle and said it has “ensured that there is a fair mix of youth and experience in the cabinet.

“India’s young demographics is starting to get reflected in the political leadership of the country, which is only natural,” it said.

Rahul wants to strengthen party: PM
On Rahul Gandhi, the Prime Minister said he always wanted him in the government but he has pre-occupations. “He wants to strengthen the party,” he said.

Asked what was the message from Sunday’s exercise, he said it is a combination of youth, experience and relevance of portfolios.

What is the road ahead? he was asked, Prime Minister replied that the road ahead is full of challenges. To a question about the proposal to move some people from Government to party, he said: “The party also needs men and women of experience to strengthen it. They will be equally productive in the party.”

NE gets two berths as MoS
Two Congress MPs from the Northeast, Ranee Narah from Assam and Ninong Ering from Arunachal Pradesh has been inducted as ministers of state (MoS)  for Tribal Affairs and Minority Affairs. Narah is the Lok Sabha MP from Lakhimpur constituency and also the deputy chief whip of her party while Ering is the MP from Arunachal East constituency.

Narah and Ering has replaced the slot left vacant from the Northeast after former Lok Sabha speaker P.A. Sangma’s daughter Agatha Sangma of the Nationalist Congress Party quit as minister of state for Rural Development and Congress MP, Vincent Pala quit as minister of state for Water Resources and Minority Affairs.

Both are from Meghalaya. Now, Northeast has three members in the UPA-II’s council of ministers-- Paban Paban Singh Ghatowar, minister of state (independent charge) for development of north eastern region and minister of state for parliamentary affairs, Ranee Narah and Ninong Ering as MoS for Tribal Affairs and Minority Affairs.

Andhra Pradesh gets major share
Andhra Pradesh, a crucial state electorally for the Congress, on Sunday got the maximum representation of six in the rejig of the council of ministers, with five new faces and one elevated to the cabinet rank. M.M. Pallam Raju, a Congress MP from coastal Andhra, has been elevated to cabinet rank from being minister of state in the defence ministry.

He is the new human resource development minister replacing Kapil Sibal.  Telugu actor-turned politician K. Chiranjeevi, who merged his Praja Rajyam Party’s 18 MLAs with the Congress last year, has become minister of state with independent charge.

The Congress fortunes in the southern state have dipped in recent years with the breakaway YSR Congress party of Jaganmohan Reddy denting its cadre and support base. 

Jaganmohan had parted ways with the Congress a year ago after his aspiration to be the state chief minister following his father and former CM Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy’s death in an air crash in 2009.

Others to be inducted as ministers of state are Kotla Jaya Surya Prakash Reddy from Kurnool, Sarve Satyanarayana from Malkajgiri, Porika Balram Naik from Mahabubabad, and Killi Kruparani from Srikakulam. The three regions of the state - Telangana, Coastal Andhra and Rayalseema - have been given representation.

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