India PM keeps key ministers in reshuffle
New Delhi, July 12, 2011
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh retained key allies in a cabinet reshuffle on Tuesday in a bid to help him fight accusations of corruption and policy paralysis, choosing instead to focus on gaining support ahead of state elections next year.
Singh failed to honour promises to bring about major changes in his second cabinet revamp this year, keeping his finance, interior, defence, foreign and trade ministers in an indication that long-stalled economic reforms were unlikely to be revived any time soon.
The minor changes were also seen as an attempt to remove some underperforming ministers as well as prepare the ruling Congress party for a key election in Uttar Pradesh next year, a state seen as setting the stage for a national election in 2014.
The changes may reaffirm the view that Singh and the Congress party-led alliance preferred to keep its allies in top positions to fight a slew of graft scandals, public protests and high inflation that have undermined the government.
'This is not really taking the bull by the horn, as they say. These are very very minor changes,' said DH Pai Panindikar, head of New Delhi-based think tank RPG Foundation. Markets did not react to the news.
In a surprise move, the maverick and influential Jairam Ramesh was moved to the rural development ministry from environment, where as a minister he has been seen as holding up multi-billion-dollar investments into steel, infrastructure, mining and power sectors by strict enforcement of green laws.
Ramesh is believed to be close to Congress president Sonia Gandhi but has had differences with the prime minister. The rural development ministry, which looks after an expensive job guarantee scheme popular with the poor, is central to the ruling party's strategy to keep its rural voter base.
Dinesh Trivedi from key ally Trinmool Congress has been given the Railways ministry. Also included in the Cabinet are BP Verma and Kishore Chandra Deo who have got steel and tribal affairs ministry respectively.
Law minister Veerappa Moily has been shifted to corporate affairs. Salman Khursheed replaces him as the new law minister.
Minister of state Mukul Roy, in the news for defying PM on Assam visit, has been divested of railways portfolio. He has been shifted to the shipping ministry.
Vilasrao Deshmukh, who has been replaced by Ramesh as the rural development minister, has been shifted to the science and technology and earth sciences ministry.
Commerce & industry minister Anand Sharma has been given additional charge of textiles ministry. Parliamentary affairs minister Pawan Kumar Bansal has been given additional charge of water resources ministry.
The new Cabinet has no new names from the southern ally DMK.
Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan, Congress chief whip Paban Singh Ghatowar have been inducted as ministers of state (MoS) with independent charge.
Trinamool chief whip Sudip Bandopadhyaya, Congress leaders Charan Das Mahant, Jitendra Singh, Milind Deora, Rajiv Shukla are making their debut as MoS in the Cabinet.
Seven ministers - Cabinet ministers Dayanidhi Maran, Murli Deora, BK Handique, MS Gill, Kanti Lal Bhuria, and MoS A Sai Prathap, Arun S Yadav have been dropped. Resignations of Dayanidhi Maran and Murli Deora have been forwarded to the President for acceptance.