Team Manmohan gets a new look

New Delhi: Salman Khurshid was on Sunday named the new External Affairs Minister and Veerappa Moily given Petroleum portfolio in the major reshuffle of the Council of Ministers by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who inducted 17 new faces including Chiranjeevi and Manish Tewari.

The much talked about revamp of the government that has been facing criticism over perceived policy paralysis and corruption allegations saw Pawan Kumar Bansal getting Railways while S Jaipal Reddy lost the high profile Petroleum and moved to Science and Technology and Earth Sciences.

With the coming Winter session of Parliament expected to be stormy, Parliamentary Affairs, which was handled by Bansal, has also been given to Congress veteran Kamal Nath who will continue to have the Urban Development portfolio. Water Resources, which was also handled by Bansal, goes to Harish Rawat in his elevated rank as Cabinet minister.

Shashi Tharoor, who had to quit as Minister of State as External Affairs in April 2010 in the wake of allegations of wrongdoing in buying stakes in an IPL team, has made a comeback as MoS in Human Resources Development.

The new faces brought in included actor-turned-politician Chiranjeevi who has been made MoS with Independent charge in the Ministry of Tourism while Manish Tewari has been given I&B, a portfolio held by Ambika Soni who resigned yesterday.

Former Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman and veteran leader from Karnataka K Rahman Khan 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. Surprisingly, Khurshid, who also held the portfolio of Law, got the high-profile External Affairs Ministry despite the controversy surrounding him over allegations of financial bungling by a trust run by him and his wife in Uttar Pradesh.

Dinsha Patel was promoted as Cabinet Minister in Mines Ministry in the reshuffle and expansion that raised the strength of the Council of Ministers to 78 from 67. 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. 22 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.

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 with Independent charge and also Minister of State of Defence portfolio. 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 S M Krishna, Virbhadra Singh, Ambika Soni, Mukul Wasnik and Subodh Kant Sahai.

Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal shed HRD portfolio to M M Pallam Raju, who has been promoted in the reshuffle. Earlier, Raju was Minister of State for Defence.

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 this year and had revolted. From MoS in Agriculture Ministry, he has now been made a Cabinet Minister for Water Resources.

The other promotions are Dinsha Patel from MoS to Cabinet Minister in the Mines Ministry and Ajay Maken, who has been shifted from Sports to Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation. (PTI)

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