In a substantive yet incomplete exercise, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Tuesday dropped seven ministers, inducted V Kishore Chandra Deo and seven other new faces, and elevated three others including Jairam Ramesh from whom Environment and Forests has been taken away. In the much-talked about revamping of his ministry, Singh did not touch the ‘big four’ — Finance, Home, Defence and External Affairs — but shifted M Veerappa Moily from Law to Corporate Affairs and brought Salman Khursheed in his place.
Trinamool Congress leader Dinesh Trivedi has been elevated to the Cabinet rank and given the Railways portfolio left vacant by Mamata Banerjee after she became West Bengal Chief Minister. Beni Prasad Verma becomes a Cabinet Minister for Steel, a portfolio he earlier held as Minister of State with Independent charge.
The other new faces in the Council of Ministers are Jayanthi Natarajan who gets Environment and Forests, Dibrugarh MP Paban Singh Ghatowar (DONER), Trinamool Congress leader Sudip Bandopadhyaya (health and family welfare), Alwar MP Jitendra Singh (home), Milind Deora (communication and IT) and Rajiv Shukla (parliamentary affairs).
Ministers who have been dropped from the Cabinet are M S Gill (Statistics and Programme Implementation), B K Handique (DONER), Kantilal Bhuria (Tribal Affairs), Murli Deora (Corporate Affairs) and Dayanidhi Maran (Textiles). While Maran had resigned last week in the wake of his being named in the 2G scam, Deora had offered his resignation citing old age and had reportedly sought a berth for his son Milind.
The new ministers were to be sworn in at a function at the Rashtrapati Bhawan Tuesday evening after which the strength of the Council will go up by one to 68. While there were eight additions, seven have been axed. Ramesh, who was seen as a pro-active minister but often courted controversies by his handling of environmental issues, has been shifted to Rural Development in the Cabinet.
The restructuring exercise appeared incomplete with additional charge of Textiles and Water Resources being given to Anand Sharma and P K Bansal respectively. Sharma retains Commerce and Industry and Bansal retains Parliamentary Affairs. HRD Minister Kapil Sibal continues to hold additional charge of Telecom, while Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi retains additional charge of Civil Aviation. Telecom portfolio went to Sibal after DMK representative A Raja resigned on allegations in 2G spectrum allocation.
No DMK representative was inducted as yet as replacements for Raja and Maran. Apparently, some of the portfolios have been kept as additional charges so that DMK can be accommodated if it chooses to send replacements. DMK is expected to decide on the issue at its General Council meeting on July 23-24 at Coimbatore.
Veteran Parliamentarian from Andhra Pradesh V Kishore Chandra Deo makes his entry into the Cabinet for the first time, making him the second minister from the state after S Jaipal Reddy. Srikant Jena, who nursed a grudge when he was made Minister of State in 2009, has got a promotion being given Independent charge of Statistics and Programme Implementation. However, he continues to be MoS in Chemicals and Fertilisers where DMK’s M K Alagiri continues to be Cabinet minister. Jena was a Cabinet Minister in the United Front government of 1996-97.