The UPA today inducted in 22 ministers in the council of ministers; 17 of them are first-timers. This is being seen as Team 2014. The Prime Minister, after the ceremony, told
NDTV that this was "hopefully the last reshuffle" before the 2014
general election. (In pictures: The new cabinet
cabinet reshuffle is also being projected as a recalibration by the
government which has been mired in corruption scandals and criticism of
inertia in policy-making. (Read: PM reallocates portfolios)
By introducing young ministers in the
cabinet, the government will reward those loyal to leader Rahul Gandhi
and signal that this is a government ready to battle for return to power
in the next general election. The reshuffle is being seen as having the
stamp of Mr Gandhi all over it, who stood next to his mother and the Prime Minister for the national anthem at Rashtrapati Bhavan before the swearing in.
there was speculation that he might join government himself in this
reshuffle, Congress sources have said that Mr Gandhi is most likely to
get a "bigger role" in the party in an internal reorganisation planned
soon. (Read: A reshuffle in the Congress too with 'bigger role' for Rahul Gandhi?
PM, after the swearing-in ceremony, told reporters, "This is the last
reshuffle before the general elections." He also said that it was
disappointing that Mr Gandhi didn't join government. (Read: Disappointed Rahul hasn't joined govt, says PM
today's reshuffle, Salman Khurshid, aged 59, will replace 80-year-old SM
Krishna, who was External Affairs Minister till Friday. Mr Khurshid was
the Law Minister and his shift comes amid charges of financial
malpractice by his NGO in Uttar Pradesh. By giving him one of the four
crucial portfolios (Finance, External Affairs, Home, Defence), his party
is defying both the BJP and anti-corruption activists who are gunning
for him. (Read: In Salman Khurshid's big promotion, Congress signals it's the boss
other significant change is Law Minister Veerappa Moily moving to the
petroleum ministry in the midst of an on-going conflict between Reliance
and the ministry over revising the cost of gas that the corporate giant
is extracting from the Krishna-Godavari basin. The ministry was with
Jaipal Reddy, who is now going to the education ministry, which Kapil
Sibal is losing. Shashi Tharoor makes a comeback as junior minister in
HRD. Mr Tharoor was forced to resign after allegations of a conflict of
interest in his backing of an IPL cricket team linked to his wife,
Tariq Anwar of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) replaced his party's
Agatha Sangma, who at 32, was ironically the youngest member of the
cabinet. Mr Anwar is now minister of state in his party chief Sharad
Pawar's ministry of agriculture.
Pawan Kumar Bansal is in charge of Railways but has lost Parliamentary Affairs to Kamal Nath, who keeps Urban Development.
new faces in government include first-timers Manish Tewari, who
has moved from spokesperson of the Congress to Minister of State for
Information and Broadcasting; Deepa Dasmunshi from West Bengal who is
junior minister for Urban Development and Hashim Khan Choudhury, also from West Bengal,
Within the government, Jyotiraditya Scindia,
Sachin Pilot and RPN Singh have been assigned new roles. Mr Scindia now has independent charge of Power, Mr Pilot takes up independent charge of Corporate Affairs and Mr Singh moves as Minister
of State for Home. None of them have been given cabinet rank, as was
being speculated. All them are second generation Congress leaders.
Sports Minister Ajay Maken has also moved up the ladder to a full cabinet
minister's rank. This is an attempt by the Congress to balance power in
Delhi, where Mr Maken is perceived to be competing for turf
with Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit. Mrs Dikshit's son Sandeep was
recently elevated to national spokesperson for the Congress.
reshuffle, like always, has kept regional representation - state
politics in other words - in mind. Telugu superstar and politician
has been rewarded with the Tourism Ministry for merging his
Praja Rajyam Party (PRP) with the Congress. That acquisition has allowed the
fragile Congress government a stronger footing in the key state of
Andhra Pradesh. D Purandeswari, also from Andhra Pradesh and was
minister of state in the HRD ministry, has been moved to the Commerce ministry. She continues to remain a junior minister.
veteran Harish Rawat has also been inducted into the government - his
compensation for not being made chief minister when Congress won the
state earlier this year.
West Bengal, where the Congress' battle
with Mamata Banerjee has escalated after her walk-out from the
government, will see three cabinet positions. Mrs Dasmunshi is also Ms
Banerjee's main rival in the state. Mr Khan Choudhury is related to the
late veteran ABA Ghani Khan Choudhury. The state, with a considerable
Muslim vote, goes to local polls next year. But there might be some
discomfort with the fact that there is no full cabinet minister from the
Dinsha Patel from Gujarat, which goes to elections in
December, has been promoted to the cabinet rank. Chandrashwari
Katoch, who is from Rajasthan which will witness elections next year, has
also been inducted as a first-timer.