His Majesty's Views

A half-hearted exercise

The much-awaited Cabinet reshuffle has finally been effected by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. He promised a wide-ranging and expansive reshuffle to take place in May, when he did a major portfolio reshuffle on the last occasion. The second reshuffle of UPA-2 is not all that expansive. None of the top ministers holding the portfolios of Finance, Defence, Home, External Affairs and HRD have been affected in the reshuffle. If this reshuffle was sought to be the one to get an image make-over, the exercise has certainly not fulfilled that objective. The need to change the perception of the non-performing ministry is still very much there.

Four ministers are joining the Cabinet. Trinamool Congress retains the Railway Ministry with Dinesh Trivedi. Jairam Ramesh gets elevated to the Ministry of Rural Development. He leaves the Environment Ministry where he made a mark for himself with his performance and, of course, courting controversies. The green activists would be very disappointed with his exit, while the Industry may welcome it.

Kishore Chandra Deo becomes the Minister for Tribal Affairs and Panchayat Raj. The senior leader has got his due. The UP imprint is very much discernable: Beni Prasad Verma gets elevated to the Cabinet as Minister for Steel.

Four new Ministers of State (MoS) with independent charge are inducted. Srikant Jena replaces M S Gill in Statistics and Programme Implementation. He will also be the Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilisers. Jayanthi Natarajan replaces Jairam Ramesh in Environment. The Congress’ national spokesperson returns to the ministry after a long gap.

Tamil Nadu gets an additional berth in the Council of Ministers, while the two Cabinet berths vacated by A Raja and Dayanidhi Maran remain without replacement. Paban Singh Ghatowar, Dibrugarh MP, is the new MoS for the North Eastern States Affairs in place of B K Handique who has been dropped. Gurudas Kamat gets Drinking Water and Sanitation portfolio.

Five Ministers of State are inducted, Milind Deora (Communication and Information Technology), Rajiv Shukla (Parliamentary Affairs), Jitendra Singh (Home), Sudip Bandopadhyaya (Health) and Charan Das Mahat (Agriculture and Food Processing Industries).

Trinamool has retained Railways and Sudip Bandopadhyaya gets a portfolio hitherto held by Dinesh Trivedi. Mukul Roy, who made the controversial statement after the Kalka Mail tragedy, a couple of days ago gets shifted to Shipping. The DMK has not named replacements for its two ministers.

Murli Deora, M S Gill and Dayanidhi Maran are out of the Cabinet. BK Handique, Kanti Lal Bhuria (Tribal Affairs), A Sai Prathap (Heavy Industries and Public Sector Enterprise) and Arun S Yadav (Agriculture) are the others dropped.

Vilasrao Deshmukh continues to be in the Cabinet despite being indicted by the courts as well as facing allegations in the Adarsh scam. He moves to Science and Technology, a second shift in six months.

Veerappa Moily is moved out of the Law Ministry to Corporate Affairs. Moily has not particularly performed well, with the government suffering several setbacks in high-profile cases. The Karnataka leader, who did creditably well in the administrative reforms front, now gets a low-profile portfolio, vacated by Murli Deora.

Murli Deora is in the midst of the Reliance controversy. However, his son Milind Deora is now in the council. Salman Khursheed moves over to Law. He also retains the charge of Minority Affairs portfolio.

The 2012 UP Assembly election is very much at the backdrop of the rejig. Like Salman, Kapil Sibal also retains two portfolios. The HRD Minister retains the Telecom post also, which he was given additional charge after the exit of A Raja. P K Bhansal has additional charge of Water Resources apart from the Parliamentary Affairs Ministry. Anand Sharma will hold additional charge of Textiles, vacated by Dayanidhi, apart from his Commerce Ministry.

As could be seen from these changes, there is no earth-shaking change. The attempt is one of filling up some vacancies and accommodating political necessities like the UP elections, more representation to Assam, etc. Gill finally goes out, be it the age factor or the performance factor. But there are many others who have survived not withstanding the age or performance criteria.

A few young faces have got berth. By no stretch of imagination, the Council of Ministers can be termed youthful. It would seem to be more of a juggling exercise than a concerted attempt to spruce up image, efficiency and performance.

Jul 13, 2011
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