Sunday, 28 October 2012

Cabinet reshuffle: Upgrade for Salman, Rahul boys likely

Cabinet reshuffle: Upgrade for Salman, Rahul boys likely
Clean Media Correspondent

NEW DELHI, Oct 28 (CMC) A conscious effort to raise the profile of young ministers will define the reshuffle Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will effect on Sunday morning. Although the exercise will be marked by boost for law minister Salman Khurshid and urban development minister Kamal Nath, it is the elevation of Ajay Maken, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Sachin Pilot that illustrates Congress's plan to showcase the latest ministerial rejig as the evidence of Rahul Gandhi's growing involvement in party affairs.

Maken is likely to be elevated to the Cabinet rank and may be given the responsibility of I&B ministry which Ambika Soni gave up on Saturday to return to Congress. Scindia and Pilot will be given independent charge of ministries: significant status upgrades considering the party's plans to groom them for bigger roles in their respective states of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

The induction of Manish Tiwari will part of the plan to bring down the average age of Team Manmohan.

Setting the stage for what will be one of the most significant ministerial reshuffle under UPA, six ministers — three of them of the Cabinet rank — resigned on Saturday, although for different reasons. A day after S M Krishna heeded the PM's desire to resign as foreign minister, Soni and Mukul Wasnik resigned as ministers for I&B and social justice, respectively, to join organization.

As widely anticipated, Subodh Kant Sahay was asked to resign as the price for indiscretion he committed by recommending allocation of coal block to a company in which his brother was a director.

Three ministers of state — Mahadev Khandela, Vincent Pala and Agatha Sangma — also quit: the last because of NCP's desire to replace her with Tariq Anwar who, incidentally, will be the sole representative of Bihar in the government.

Among the seniors, urban development minister Kamal Nath is to be given the additional charge of the ministry of parliamentary affairs: a move that reflects the recognition of the challenges that, with Opposition planning to feast on the controversies surrounding Robert Vadra, government expects to face in the Winter Session, as well as its dire need to get crucial legislations passed. Among the longest-serving members of Lok Sabha, Kamal Nath is obviously expected to bring the opponents around on legislations that are stuck in Parliament.

Salman Khurshid has emerged as a strong contender for the ministry of external affairs, in what will mark a major fillip to his career. Former deputy chairperson of Rajya Sabha, K Rahman Khan, was likely to take over Khurshid's minority affairs ministry irrespective of his new assignment.

Apart from the desire to enhance the youth quotient of the government, changes appear to have been shaped by a patchwork of imperatives for coming elections and the perennial need to manage factional equations. Even the elevation of Maken is seen a move aimed at balancing factional dynamics in Delhi where CM Sheila Dikshit has been on an upswing, with even son Sandeep being appointed the national party spokesperson.

With Congress's fortunes headed southwards in Andhra Pradesh which was crucial to party's consecutive wins in Lok Sabha elections, the state has got a mega representation. Telugu super star, Chiaranjeevi, who merged his Praja Rajyam party in Congress, will be inducted as minister of state, possibly with the independent charge of the ministry of tourism. Besides him, four other Congress MPs from Andhra Pradesh — Sarve Satyanarayana, S P Reddy, Balram Naik and K Kruparani — will be inducted as ministers of state.

The fresh inductions from Andhra Pradesh will take its representation in the Council of Ministers to 10, excluding Jairam Ramesh who, while from Karnataka, has been elected to Rajya Sabha from the state. The accommodation of Telangana leaders in the Union ministry also signals that the debate on the statehood demand is over for the time being, at least so far as Congress is concerned.

So far as individuals are concerned, the hierarchy is unlikely to be affected much. Anand Sharma is expected to continue handling the ministry for commerce despite the intense speculation about his move to the foreign ministry: something that was reinforced when a thanks giving quote of D Purandeswari was interpreted to mean that she will look after Sharma's portfolio as a full-scale Cabinet minister. Purandeswari is expected to join the ministry, but stays a minister of state.

Kapil Sibal will stay put in telecom ministry, with all indications suggesting that his original charge, HRD ministry, may go to a senior minister from the south. Petroleum ministry may get a new head in case the choice for HRD falls on Jaipal Reddy.

C P Joshi will continue in Rail Bhawan. The ministry for highways, his original responsibility, is likely to be assigned to Pawan Bansal, who is shedding parliamentary affairs for Nath.

Others who looked set for promotion included Harish Rawat who was likely to be given the Cabinet rank as a compensation for being passed over for the chief ministership of Uttarakhand earlier this year. Dinsha Patel was also tipped to given the Cabinet rank in his current ministry of mines in the build up to the election in his home state of Gujarat.

K H Muniyappa, a Dalit leader from Karnataka, will be promoted and given independent charge of a ministry.

Rajiv Shukla, minister of state for parliamentary affairs, is likely to be given the responsibility of another ministry in the same rank.

Shashi Tharoor and Kodikunnil Suresh from Kerala, Ninong Ering of Arunachal Pradesh, P K Balmuchu from Jharkhand , A H Khan Choudhury from West Bengal are likely to oath as MoS.

The exercise is expected to be a prelude to important changes in Congress organization, amid clear indications that Rahul Gandhi may be playing a more proactive role from an elevated designation. His close involvement in the latest round of ministry making has only enhanced the estimate. Soni is set to join the Congress Working Committee. Wasnik, already a general secretary, will now be fully immersed in organizational responsibility.

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