Manmohan makes big changes in ‘minor' reshuffle

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on November 09, 2017


Murli Deora, Sharad Pawar, Praful Patel get new portfolios

In what could be considered a minor but critical first reshuffle of UPA-II, the Prime Minister on Wednesday changed the portfolios of some incumbents, with several Ministers belonging to the non-Congress allies being given relatively lighter portfolios.

In view of the impending elections in Kerala and UP, improved representation has been given to MPs from these two States. However, three States — Chhattisgarh, Goa and Manipur — are yet to be represented in the Union Council of Ministers.

Speaking to newspersons after the reshuffle, the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, called it a “minor reshuffle” adding that a major reshuffle is expected to take place after the Budget session of Parliament. The Budget session is expected to begin in February and last till May.

Elevated to Cabinet status

In a surprise change, the Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas, Mr Murli Deora, was shifted to the Ministry of Corporate Affairs. Simultaneously, Mr Praful Patel (moves from Civil Aviation to Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises), Mr Sriprakash Jaiswal (Coal Ministry) and Mr Salman Khursheed (from Corporate Affairs to Water Resources) were elevated to Cabinet status. Mr Patel's association with the aviation sector is likely to continue as Air India could be referred to the Ministry of Heavy Industries to look into the airlines' wage bill.

Mr Sharad Pawar will no longer look after the Department of Food, which will now be come under Prof K.V. Thomas. Prof Thomas has been given the reins of the Department at a time when the country's food inflation is the highest among major Asian economies. This had led to criticism of Mr Pawar for what is termed his failure to improve the distribution of food, scale up infrastructure and iron out supply bottlenecks — the primary reasons for prices of food products shooting up.

Contrary to expectations, not many new faces or younger ministers were inducted. The Minister of State for Power, Mr K.C. Venugopal, is the sole exception. The Prime Minister has also not dropped any Minister for non-performance, one of the reasons cited for the reshuffle.

The move to re-jig the team comes at a time when the twin challenges of escalating food inflation and moderating industrial output seem to have put the Government in a quandary.

With food price inflation still at 16.9 per cent and industrial production falling to an 18-month low at just 2.7 per cent, the need to invigorate the thinking process within the administrative set-up has been badly felt.

Further, changes in the ministerial council centre around key economic portfolios, especially in the infrastructure space. The signal sent out, say political watchers, is that the economy will continue to receive a major thrust in overall governance.

Mr Salman Khursheed's elevation to the Cabinet rank and being given charge of the water resources portfolio signals the importance the Government attaches to the handling of portfolios that deal with national resources.

Published on January 20, 2011

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