New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's new team assumed charge on Monday after 22 ministers, including 17 new faces, were sworn in the biggest reshuffle of Council of Ministers on Sunday. The new ministers are expected to give a firm push to the reforms agenda and help counter the government's image of being soft on corruption. The young brigade in the Council of Ministers is close to Rahul Gandhi even as Manmohan Singh has taken a gamble by giving several new entrants important portfolios with independent charge.
Jyotiraditya Scindia took charge as the Minister of State for Power at a time when the sector is grappling with a crisis. With two major power grid failures in the recent past and protests against nuclear power plants, Scindia holds a difficult task ahead. With the ban on coal mining in Karnataka and Goa, India has been facing a major power shortage. The issue of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant also remains a contentious one. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa has been demanding that the power attained from Kudankulam be given fully to her state even as there have been protests with activists questioning the safety of the plant. In such a situation, it remains to be seen whether a young minister like Scindia will be able to take India out of such a crisis.
Meanwhile, Salman Khurshid, who was the Law Minister, took charge as the External Affairs Minister despite allegations of corruption. Asked if his appointment despite the controversy surrounding him over charges of financial bungling by a trust run by him and his wife was a clear indication of the confidence he enjoyed of the government and the party, he said "it is for others to judge" and added that one cannot "surrender" before those who just make allegations. He is taking over the ministry at a time when India is assuming greater global stature and the developed world, reeling from the global downturn, is looking at New Delhi afresh as an emerging economic power.
Congress's loyal spokesperson Manish Tewari is also a part of Manmohan Singh's team. He has assumed his responsibilities as the Information And Broadcast Minister, replacing Ambika Soni, at a time when questions are being raised on whether or not media should be regulated. Manish Tewari, after taking charge, made it clear that he has no intention of any governmental regulation of media and maintained that "self regulation is the best regulation". "No single individual can change the language of national discourse. I am under no illusion that I alone will be able to change the nature of national discourse. "All stakeholders will have to take steps to move up to that trajectory," Tewari said when asked about the criticism of "bad press" being faced by the UPA-II and his plan of action to change it. Tewari has a long association of nearly 31 years with Congress since joining its youth wing in 1981. The 47-year-old leader has been seen as a strong defence line of the Congress in JPC on 2G to counter BJP onslaught.
The UPA has also roped in more faces from Andhra Pradesh at a time when it is grappling from the Telangana agitation. The induction of six names from Andhra Pradesh is being seen as Congress's bid to placate the demand for the separate statehood of Telangana. The three new faces from Andhra Pradesh are - Kotla Surya Prakash Reddy, a three-time MP and son of former CM K Vijaybhaskar Reddy, Kruparani Killi, a first time MP and belonging to backward Kalinga subcaste and actor-turned politician Chiranjeevi, who merged his party Prajarajyam with the Congress. Two of the new faces are from Telangana, Sarve Satyanarayana and Balram Naik, both of whom, political observers say, have been rewarded for being loyal to the party and not embarrassing it on the Telangana issue. Meanwhile, Pallam Raju, who has been the minister of state for defence since 2006, has been elevated to the cabinet rank.
The Congress also made sure that it replied to Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee's walkout from the UPA in a strong manner. Two of the TMC chief's strongest political opponents have been elevated to the cabinet. Two months after the TMC supremo walked out of the coalition, two of her most bitter detractors in the West Bengal Congress, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and Deepa Dasmunsi have been inducted into the Cabinet.
But questions are being raised over why Jaipal Reddy was shunted out of the Petroleum ministry. jaipal reddy was shunted as the Petroleum Minister and made the Science and Technology Minister during Sunday's Cabinet reshuffle. Many allege that Jaipal Reddy has been removed for pleasing Reliance. "I think from the post that Jaipal Reddy has been given, it is clear that the government is unhappy with the manner in which he worked," BJP leader Meenakshi Lekhi said,
"There were reports in the media that Jaipal was dropped under pressure from industry. The Prime Minister must explain to the people why Jaipal was suddenly removed," BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu added.
India Against Corruption activist Arvind Kejriwal also questioned the move. He tweeted, "Why did Jaipal Reddy lose his job? For resisting Reliance? Oily Moily will now work as per Reliance? So, LPG and power prices set to rise? (sic)" "Jaipal Reddy - known to be honest - kicked out. Salman Khurshid - corrupt - promoted. That's UPA (sic)," he added.
Meanwhile, the Centre has defended the shunting of Jaipal Reddy from the petroleum ministry saying it was not done to please anyone. When asked whether the new responsibility given to Jaipal Reddy was like a demotion, Ajay Maken, who was sworn in as the housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation Minister on Sunday, said, "I don't think so because Jaipal has been given four different kinds of portfolios in the last 8 to 9 years and he has performed in each and every one of them and Science and Technology is also an important ministry."
The cabinet reshuffle, which emphasised on youth and loyalty, has also been drawing flak from within the UPA's own camp. The Samajwadi Party has slammed the decision to elevate what it calls tainted ministers and also that no ministers from Uttar Pradesh were inducted.
"No senior leaders from UP have been made ministers. In fact, tainted ministers have been elevated. Salman Khurshid has become the External Affairs Ministers and one minister who is named in the coal scam has been promoted," Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Yadav said.
Congress's own General Secretary Digvijaya Singh is also not pleased with the low representation given to his state Madhya Pradesh in the union cabinet. "Sonia Gandhi and the PM must have given these decisions a lot of thought. Yes we were a little disappointed in Madhya Pradesh but our focus now is to prepare for the general elections," Digvijaya Singh said.
UPA ministry gets 17 new faces, core team stays
Manmohan Singh's imprint on the Sunday reshuffle in the Council of Ministers is evident with several leaders who are in favour of more economic reforms now a part of his new core team. In the biggest reshuffle of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance Cabinet, Manmohan Singh inducted 17 new faces and a total of 22 ministers giving several new and young faces a chance to prove their mettle as his government tries to remove the taint of scams and non-performance from its progress report. The Congress has also shown that it is the big brother in the UPA by having 69 of the 79 ministers, including the Railways.
The big movers include Salman Khurshid who has been made the External Affairs Minister, a portfolio which is considered to be very close to the Prime Minister. Khurshid's move to the Ministry of External Affairs from Law & Justice and Minority Affairs is seen as an elevation despite allegation of his involvement in a scam in Uttar Pradesh. Ashwani Kumar had got the important portfolio of Law, which has been working overtime due the exposure of several corruption cases involving leaders of the ruling coalition.
MM Pallam Raju, too, has been elevated from Minister of State for Defence and is now the Human Resource Minister while Pawan Kumar Bansal is the new Railways Minister with Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and KJ Surya Prakash Reddy as his junior ministers. CP Joshi was holding the Railways portfolio as additional charge after the Trinamool Congress quit the UPA and withdrew its ministers in September 2012 following differences over economic reforms.
Manish Tewari with Information and Broadcasting and Telugu film superstar-turned-politician K Chiranjeevi, who has been given the Tourism portfolio are some of the new faces in the Council of Ministers. Both have been made the Ministers of State with independent charge. Shashi Tharoor, who had to quit as MoS External Affairs in April 2010 in the wake of allegations of wrongdoing in buying stakes in an IPL team, has made a comeback and is now Ministers of State Human Resource. Ajay Maken, too, has been elevated to the Cabinet rank and will handle the Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation Ministry. Maken at 48 years is also the youngest Cabinet minister in the Manmohan Singh government.
The Prime Minister has kept with core economic team with Anand Sharma retaining the Commerce Ministry despite the political upheavel over foreign direct investments. However, S Jaipal Reddy has been out of Petroleum Ministry and given the low-profile Science & Technology and Earth Sciences portfolio.
Kapil Sibal, too, has been downgraded and now only the Minister of Communications and Information Technology while Minister of Health and Family Welfare Ghulam Nabi Azad's desire for a high profile portfolio has been ignored.
The focus of the reshuffle was on inducting new and young faces with the states of Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal cornering the major share out of the 22 ministers sworn in. While Andhra Pradesh has six new faces, West Bengal gets three more representatives. The move to give prominence to Andhra and Bengal is seen as a strategy to counter the Telangana statehood issue and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, who has pulled out of the UPA following differences over economic reforms.
Former Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman and veteran leader from Karnataka K Rahman Khan, despite allegations of involvement in a scam involving Wakf Board land, made a re-entry into the government as Minority Affairs Minister, a portfolio held by Khurshid. In UPA-I, Khan was a Minister of State. Dinsha Patel was promoted as Cabinet Minister in Mines Ministry in the reshuffle and expansion.
Rahul Gandhi, who was earlier speculated to join the government, kept away with the Prime Minister saying the young leader wants to strengthen the party, notwithstanding his request to become a minister. The exercise, which the Prime Minister said was "hopefully, probably the last" before next Lok Sabha polls, was confined to Congress party barring the inclusion of Tariq Anwar of NCP as a Minister of State.
The ministers were administered the oath of office and secrecy by President Pranab Mukherjee at a ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan attended by Vice President Hamid Ansari, the Prime Minister, Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Cabinet Ministers and Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj.
The Prime Minister took away portfolios from ministers holding more than one charge and filled in the vacancies created by exit of six Trinamool Ministers, death of Vilasrao Deshmukh and resignation of eight Ministers including SM Krishna, Virbhadra Singh, Ambika Soni, Mukul Wasnik and Subodh Kant Sahai.
Another significant promotion has been made in the case of Ashwani Kumar who has been upgraded to the Cabinet rank and given the charge of the Law Ministry held by Khurshid. Yet another upgradation has been made in the case of Harish Rawat, who was overlooked for the post of chief minister of Uttarakhand earlier in 2012 and had revolted. From MoS in Agriculture Ministry, he has now been made a Cabinet Minister for Water Resources.
Significant changes have also been made by upgrading three young Ministers of State, considered close to Rahul Gandhi, and giving them independent charge. They are Jyotiraditya Scindia who has been given Power and Sachin Pilot Corporate Affairs, both of which were held by Moily in Cabinet rank. Jitendra Singh, who was MoS in Home Ministry, has been given Youth and Sports Affairs. Later in the day, a new communique was issued by the Rashtrapati Bhawan stating that Singh will also be given the additional charge of Ministry of Defence.
Veteran Congress leader and MoS K H Muniyappa has been shifted from Railways to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) and Bharatsinh Solanki from Railways to Drinking Water and Sanitation with Independent charge. The other Ministers of State who have been shifted are D Purandeswari (from HRD to Commerce and Industry), Jitin Prasada (from Road Transport to HRD), S Jagathrakshakan (from I&B to New and Renewable Energy), KC Venugopal (from Power to Civil Aviation) and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Rajiv Shukla who gets additional charge of Planning. MoS External Affairs E Ahamed has shed the additional charge of HRD while RPN Singh has been shifted from Petroleum to Home.
Below is the full list of the UPA Council of Ministers after the reshuffle:
Manmohan Singh: Prime Minister, Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, Ministry of Planning, Department of Atomic Energy, Department of Space
P Chidambaram: Finance
Sharad Pawar: Agriculture Minister, Minister of Food Processing Industries
AK Antony: Defence
Sushil Kumar Shinde: Minister of Home Affairs
K Rahman Khan: Minority Affairs
Dinsha J Patel: Mines
Ajay Maken: Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation
MM Pallam Raju: Human Resource Development
Ashwani Kumar: Law & Justice
Harish Rawat: Water Resources
Chandresh Kumari Katoch: Culture
M Veerappa Moily: Petroleum & Natural Gas
S Jaipal Reddy: Science & Technology and Earth Sciences
Kamal Nath: Urban Development & Parliamentary Affairs
Vayalar Ravi: Overseas Indian Affairs
Kapil Sibal: Communications & Information Technology
CP Joshi: Road Transport & Highways
Kumari Selja: Social Justice & Empowerment
Pawan Kumar Bansal: Railways
Salman Khurshid: External Affairs
Jairam Ramesh: Rural Development
Ghulam Nabi Azad: Minister of Health and Family Welfare
Dr. Farooq Abdullah: Minister of New and Renewable Energy
Ajit Singh: Civil Aviation
Mallikarjun Kharge: Minister of Labour and Employment
Kapil Sibal: Minister of Communications and Information Technology
Anand Sharma: Minister of Commerce and Industry, Minister of Textiles
GK Vasan: Shipping
MK Alagiri: Minister of Chemicals and Fertilizers
Praful Manoharbhai Patel: Minister of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises
Sriprakash Jaiswal: Minister of Coal
V Kishore Chandra Deo: Minister of Tribal Affairs, Minister of Panchayati Raj
Beni Prasad Verma: Minister of Steel
Ministers of State (Independent Charge)
Manish Tewari: Information & Broadcasting
K Chiranjeevi: Tourism
Jyotiraditya Madhavrao Scindia: Power
KH Muniyappa: Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises
Bharatsinh Madhavsinh Solanki: Drinking Water & Sanitation
Sachin Pilot: Corporate Affairs
Jitendra Singh: Youth Affairs Ministry, Sports Ministry and Defence Ministry
Krishna Tirath: Ministry of Women and Child Development
Kuruppassery Varkey Thomas: Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution
Srikant Kumar Jena: Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation
Jayanthi Natarajan: Ministry of Environment and Forests
Paban Singh Ghatowar: Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region, Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs
Ministers of state
Shashi Tharoor: Human Resource Development
Kodikunnil Suresh: Labour & Employment
Tariq Anwar: Agriculture & Food Processing Industries
KJ Surya Prakash Reddy: Railways
Ranee Narah: Tribal Affairs
Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury: Railways
AH Khan Choudhury: Health & Family Welfare
Sarvey Sathyanarayana: Road Transport & Highways
Ninong Ering: Minority Affairs
Deepa Dasmunsi: Urban Development
Porika Balram Naik: Social Justice & Empowerment
Dr (Smt) Kruparani Killi: Communications & Information Technology
Lalchand Kataria: Defence
E Ahamed: External Affairs
D Purandeswari: Commerce & Industry
Jitin Prasada: Human Resource Development
Dr S Jagathrakshakan: New & Renewable Energy
RPN Singh: Home
KC Venugopal: Civil Aviation
Rajeev Shukla: Parliamentary Affairs & Planning
V Narayanasamy: Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, Prime Minister Office
Lakshmi Panabaka: Ministry of Textiles
Namo Narain Meena: Ministry of Finance
SS Palanimanickam: Ministry of Finance
Preneet Kaur: Ministry of External Affairs
D Napoleon: Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment
S Gandhiselvan: Ministry of Health and Family Welfare
Tushar Amarsinh Chaudhary: Ministry of Road Transport and Highways
Pratik Prakashbapu Patil: Ministry of Coal
Ratanjit Pratap Narain Singh: Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Ministry of Corporate Affairs
Pradeep Kumar Jain Aditya: Ministry of Rural Development
Charan Das Mahant: Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Food Processing Industries, Ministry of Food Processing Industries
Milind Murli Deora: Ministry of Communications and Information Technology
(With additional information from PTI)