PM axes 7 ministers; inducts 8 new faces

3:55 PM, Tuesday, July 12th, 2011
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Cabinet Reshuffle UPA2New Delhi:  The twin headlines of this Cabinet reshuffle – the second during UPA 2 – are that Jairam Ramesh has left the Environment Ministry, albeit with a promotion; and Veerappa Moily has been replaced as Law Minister by Salman Khursheed.
Jayanthi Natarajan, former Congress spokesperson, will now handle the high-profile Environment Ministry as a Minister of State with Independent Charge.
Mr Ramesh, credited with revving up the Environment Ministry and criticized often by other ministers for often obstructing development, has been promoted to Cabinet rank with the critical Rural Development Ministry, which was headed so far by Vilas Rao Deshmukh.  Rural Development is known to be very close to Rahul Gandhi’s heart and Mr Ramesh’s elevation is being viewed in his camp as a big promotion.
The Big 4 ministries – Finance, Defence, Home and External Affairs – remain unchanged.  And as anticipated, no replacements have been announced for the vacancies created by Dayanidhi Maran and A Raja, both from the DMK, who have resigned over corruption charges. Mr Maran’s resignation has been accepted by the President.
Mr Moily, who will move to Corporate Affairs, exits the Law Ministry at a time when the government has been reprimanded in a glut of cases by the Supreme Court.  Ranging from the telecom scam to the attempts to recover black money, the government has been accused of willful mismanagement and inertia.  In the telecom scam, the Prime Minister’s Office was asked to explain alleged inaction. The resignation of the Solicitor General over the weekend served, sources say, as the proverbial final straw.
Rail and more for Trinamool
As expected, Dinesh Trivedi of the Trinamool Congress has been given the Railways Ministry – a Cabinet rank post vacated by his party chief Mamata Banerjee after she was elected West Bengal Chief Minister.  The weekend saw two massive train accidents in UP and Guwahati and national anger over what’s perceived as a leadership crisis in the ministry, and a lack of focus on passenger safety. Mr Trivedi’s party colleague Sudip Bandopadhyay replaces him as Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare. Trinamool watchers are surprised at close Mamata confidante Mukul Roy being ignored. Mr Roy, who was Minister of State for Shipping, with additional charge of Railways in the 50-odd days since Mamata quit, has gone back to holding only his Shipping portfolio. He came in for much criticism after the weekend rail accidents.
Beni Prasad Verma, a heavyweight leader from UP, has been elevated to Cabinet rank from Minister with Independent Charge. His ministry remains the same – Steel.  Andhra Pradesh leader V Kishore Chandra Deo has been made Cabinet Minister for Tribal Affairs and Panchayati Raj, an important assignment in a Congress government. His appointment comes at a time that the Congress needs to consolidate in Andhra Pradesh, confronting as it is a new crisis with many of its leaders resigning over the demand for a new Telangana state.
Milind Deora, a young MP from Mumbai, has been made Minister of State for Communications and Information Technology.  His father, Murli Deora, resigned last week as Minister of Corporate Affairs.  Today, he has been replaced by Mr Moily.
Rajiv Shukla, as well known in the world of cricket as he is in politics, will be Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs
Mr Deshmukh, who has been replaced as Rural Development Minister by Mr Ramesh, will now handle Science and Technology.
5 ministers sacked
Five ministers have been sacked, including MS Gill who was in charge of Sports and looked on a sticky wicket ever since the CWG controversies happened. The others are BK Handique, veteran Assam leader, Kantilal Bhuria, who loses the Tribal Affairs Ministry, Arun S Yadav from Madhya Pradesh who was the Minister of State for Agriculture and Food Processing Industries and Sai Prathap Annayyagari, who was Minister of State, Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises, an Andhra man known to be close to Jagan Mohan Reddy.
In replacing them, the PM has kept regional expectations in mind. Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, victorious in the recently held Assembly elections, had recently said he would like more ministers from Assam. Mr Handique has been dropped but Congress MP from Dibrugarh, PS Ghatowar, will now be Minister of State with Independent Charge of Development of the North Eastern Region.
In other minor changes, Minister for Commerce and Industry Anand Sharma will hold additional charge of Textiles; Parliamentary Affairs Minister PK Bansal will have additional charge of Water Resources and the new Law Minister, Salman Khursheed, will also be in charge of Minority Affairs.
* Jairam Ramesh moves from Environment to Rural Development
* Jayanthi Natarajan is Minister of State with Independent Charge for Environment
* Vilasrao Deshmukh moves from Rural Development to Science and Technology
* Veerappa Moily moves from Law to Corporate Affairs
* Salman Khursheed takes over as Law Minister with additional charge of Minority Affairs
M S Gill, B K Handique, Kantilal Bhuria, A Sai Prathap and Arun S Yadav.


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