No major shake-ups: Prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh
PRIME Minister Dr Manmohan Singh retained key allies in a cabinet reshuffle today 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.Dr 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 Dr 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 Panandikar, 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.Changes in Dr Manmohan Singh’s council of ministers:New cabinet ministers:V Kishore Chandra Deo: tribal affairs and panchayati rajBeni Prasad Verma: steelDinesh Trivedi: railwaysJairam Ramesh: rural developmentMinisters of state (independent charge):Srikant Jena: statistics and programme implementation and minister of state in the ministry of chemicals and fertilisersJayanthi Natarajan: environment and forestsPaban Singh Ghatowar: development of north eastern regionGurudas Kamat: drinking water and sanitationMinisters of state:Sudip Bandopadhyaya: health and family welfareCharan Das Mahant: agriculture and food processing industriesJitendra Singh: home affairsMilind Deora: communications and information technologyRajiv Shukla: parliamentary affairsMinisters with new portfolios:Vilasrao Deshmukh: science and technology and earth sciencesM Veerappa Moily: corporate affairsAnand Sharma: commerce and industry; and additional charge of textilesPK Bansal: parliamentary affairs and additional charge of water resourcesSalman Khursheed: law and justice and additional charge of minority affairsMinisters of state:E Ahamed: external affairs and human resource developmentV Narayanasamy: personnel, public grievances and pensions; and prime minister’s officeHarish Rawat: agriculture and food processing industries; and parliamentary affairsMukul Roy: shippingAshwani Kumar: planning; science and technology and earth sciences The ministers have lost their positions are Dayanidhi Maran, Murli Deora, BK Handique, Dr MS Gill, Kanti Lal Bhuria, A Sai Prathap and Arun S Yadav
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