By Syed Ubaidur Rahman (NVONews.Com)
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who is facing opposition onslaught on skyrocketing corruption and financial irregularities in his government has tried to give a fresh look to his cabinet by infusing new blood. But it is yet to be seen if this reshuffle will help him stave off opposition and anti-corruption crusaders’ onslaught against his government and party.
Salman Khurshid who is facing some allegations of corruption in one of NGOs being run by his wife Louis Khurshid has been given Foreign portfolio. His graph has risen steadily in the Manmohan Singh government despite obvious incompetence as Minorities Affairs minister and Law Minister.
The Minorities affairs ministry has been a mammoth failure during his tenure in the ministry and he was unable to give any breather to the beleaguered Manmohan Singh government as a law minister too. To be true he elevation as a law minister looks nothing but strange.
Khurshid has antagonised his community. A Muslim leader belonging to his own Congress Party says that Khursheed has failed to take up Muslim issues at any level and play any role in implementation of minorities welfare schemes in Muslim areas.
If Manmohan and Sonia believe that his elevation as law minister will get Congress more Muslim votes, then Prime Minister and Sonia are off the mark. Muslim populace doesn’t actually recognise him as a community leader as he has never shown any interest in Muslim issues. Be it alleviation of poverty in the community or issues of higher education, he has never shown any interest. His lack of interest in issues related to Muslim youth’s arrests in baseless allegations of complicity in terrorism case in known to all. He has kept mum on such an important issue not just as a Muslim leader of a political party but also as a minister of minorities affairs too.
Meanwhile during the reshuffle, several key portfolios changed hands, some new faces were introduced, some elevated to cabinet rank and at least one old face – Shashi Tharoor – was back in an exercise that jettisoned tainted ministers like Subodh Kant Sahay and roped veterans like Ambika Soni and S.M. Krishna back into the party organisation to gear up for the 2014 electoral battle.
“It is a combination of youth and experience,” Manmohan Singh said after the ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan where President Pranab Mukherjee administered the oath of office. “The road ahead is full of challenges,” he said, expressing hope that this was the last such exercise before his UPA-II government heads for elections.
Meanwhile in the reshuffle of berths, Khurshid, who has been battling allegations of graft, got external affairs. His previous ministry, law, went to Ashwani Kumar. Khurshid had served as junior foreign minister under P.V. Narasimha Rao in the 1990s. Pallam Raju was made human resource development (HRD) minister in place of Kapil Sibal, who was left only with communication and IT. Pallam Raju’s minister of state in HRD was Tharoor, who had to resign as minister of state for external affairs in 2010 over a controversy regarding his alleged conflict of interests in the affairs of the Kochi IPL cricket team.
M. Veerappa Moily was given petroleum, while his previous responsibilities of corporate affairs and power were split – Sachin Pilot was elevated as minister of state with independent charge of corporate affairs and Jyotiraditya Scindia got independent charge of power. These two ministers are known to be close to Rahul Gandhi. Rawat was made water resources minister and Katoch union culture minister. Maken was elevated as housing and poverty alleviation minister and Dinsha Patel as mines minister. S. Jaipal Reddy got science and technology and Kamal Nath got additional charge of parliamentary affairs besides urban development.
Amongst the ministers of state sworn in were Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari who got independent charge of information and broadcasting. Earlier with Soni, the ministry has been downgraded. Telugu actor Chiranjeevi, whose PRP merged with the Congress, got independent charge of the tourism ministry. Tourism is one of the country’s major foreign exchange earners. Special attention was paid to Andhra Pradesh, where Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy has been gaining in influence and where Telangana issue has split ranks. It got the maximum representation of six with five new faces and one elevated to the cabinet rank. Besides Pallam Raju, there was Chiranjeevi, Kotla Jaya Surya Prakash Reddy, Sarve Satyanarayana, Porika Balram Naik and Killi Kruparani.
There were also three new faces from West Bengal – Adhir R. Chowdhury, Deepa Dasmunsi and A.H. Khan Chowdhury, all known to be fiercely opposed to state chief minister Mamata Banerjee, whose Trinamool Congress broke ranks with the ruling coalition recently to bring about several ministerial vacancies. Apex industry chamber CII welcomed the reshuffle and said: “India’s young demographics is starting to get reflected in the political leadership of the country, which is only natural.”
The reshuffle has attracted scathing attack against government by opposition and anti-corruption crusaders. Activist-politician Arvind Kejriwal, who had earlier this month produced documents of alleged financial bungling by a trust run by Khurshid and his wife, was equally scathing. “Corrupt people are not just protected but also rewarded,” he tweeted. Opportunity lost or a concerted move towards change? The upcoming assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat will be the Congress-led government’s first major electoral test.