MANOJ SINHA: Work in Railways on track, he gets telecom also
By: Avishek G Dastidar
Within the corridors of Rail Bhawan, the elevation of Minister of State Manoj Sinha seemed to be a foregone conclusion when talk of a Cabinet reshuffle first started doing the rounds about a few months ago.
By getting independent charge of telecom, while retaining railways, Sinha is being viewed as among the biggest gainers in the reshuffle.
Over the last two years, the 57-year-old Bhumihar leader from eastern Uttar Pradesh has built a reputation as someone who is accessible to all — his voters from Ghazipur, Railways officers and party workers. On January 25, when Rail Bhawan is shut after midday as part of the pre-Republic Day security drill, Sinha’s office is known to remain open.
A civil engineer from IIT-BHU, Sinha is said to be rarely out of his depth while dealing with complex issues.
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His workload, and consequently his stature as MoS, got a boost last year when Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu delegated additional responsibilities, including transfers and postings of officers, chasing some high-profile budget items, dealing with requests from public representatives (MPs, MLAs) — usually pertaining to new trains, increased frequencies, stoppages, completion of pending projects, transfers and postings.
His office dilligently indexed, followed up and prioritised all requests from public representatives. Sinha has been credited with successfully inserting a number of these requests in the Rail Budgets. So while Prabhu was seen as the “ideas man”, Sinha started being known as the “doer”.
Sinha has been given the “high-profile” assignment of looking after all rail works in the PM’s constituency of Varanasi.
RAMDAS ATHAWALE:‘Induction a political move, eye on UP, BMC polls’
By: Shalini Niar
Ramdas Athawle’s induction in the Union ministry has less to do with the need for an additional Minister of State (MoS) in a ministry which already has two Ministers of State, but is more about the BJP’s machinations to garner Dalit votes, both in the 2017 Uttar Pradesh elections and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) polls.
The social justice and empowerment ministry headed by Union Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot, has MoS Vijay Sampla and MoS Krishnan Pal Gurjar. Sampla, who was recently made BJP chief in election-bound Punjab, handles drug abuse, beggary, transgender and SC-OBC issues, while Gurjar looks after disability affairs.
Athawale is most likely to be given SC affairs, a department which currently does little other than disbursing scholarships. By his own admission, Athawale’s induction is a political move.
“When we tied up with the BJP prior to the 2014 elections, we were promised a ministerial berth. It has been fulfilled now, with the UP and Mumbai municipal elections around the corner. We will take on Mayawati in the UP polls. This is a mutually beneficial deal for both the BJP and RPI,” Athawale told The Indian Express.
His induction is also being seen as a symbolic attempt to placate the anger over the Rohith Vemula and Kanhaiya episodes.
The Republican Party of India (Athawale faction) is among the many splintered factions of the RPI, and the one with the maximum mass base in Maharashtra. The cash-rich BMC is set to go to polls next year. With the RPI (Athawale) holding some sway over Dalit pockets in at least a third of the 227 civic wards, the BJP sees it as a way to counter Shiv Sena, its ally at the Centre which will be fighting the civic elections separately.
“Currently, the RPI(A) has only a single corporator in the BMC, but its strength lies in being able to garner just enough votes from its Dalit base, which, for many parties, will prove to be a make-or-break margin,” said a close associate of Athawale.
With his roots in Maharashtra’s Dalit Panther movement, Athawale’s initiation into politics was through then Congress leader Sharad Pawar. But his two decades as an ally of the Congress-NCP and three terms as a Member of Parliament did not get him a central ministerial berth. A disgruntled Athawale then joined hands with the BJP in 2011.
On Wednesday, the street outside Maharashtra Sadan in Delhi was lined with huge posters congratulating Athawale, while a lone poster hung at the gate of Shastri Bhawan, where he took charge as MoS. “The Congress has been unjust to me all these years. (Narendra) Modiji has kept his word. Seventy years after Ambedkar was part of the Nehru government, an RPI leader has got a ministerial berth. Dalits all over the country feel invigorated by this,” said Athawale.
BIRENDER SINGH: Early warning sign, both PM, RSS not happy with his work
By: Shalini Niar
In the run-up to the reshuffle, there were several signs that the Rural Development Ministry may be taken away from Birender Singh and handed over to Narendra Singh Tomar.
A couple of months ago, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Gram Uday Se Bharat Uday programme, he put Tomar, who was then the mines and steel minister, in charge of coordinating his marquee initiative meant as a major outreach to India’s villages, instead of handing over the responsibility to Singh, then the Rural Development Minister.
Besides Modi’s dissatisfaction with his work, Singh’s ouster is also being blamed on the negative feedback from the RSS. Singh, who was with the Congress for four decades before joining the BJP in 2014, was perceived as an outsider by the RSS — which may be a reason why most of the personal staff assigned to Singh in the ministry were from the organisation.
Tomar, on the other hand, has known RSS links.
A major grouse of the RSS was that Singh, a prominent Jat leader from Haryana, focussed on his home state. “The RSS sent a negative report on Singh to the PM who was anyway not very happy with the work of the ministry. While the PM wanted the Rural Development Ministry to be more in touch with the ground realities in villages across the country, much of Singh’s work was meant for Haryana,” said sources.
Several of the PM’s pet projects were from Singh’s rural development and drinking water and sanitation ministry. These include Swachh Bharat mission, Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana (model village scheme) and the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana. “The PM was particularly unhappy about the slow progress made on each of these three programmes,” said sources.
Sources said that at the Cabinet meeting Tuesday, Modi even indicated that the department’s ministers of state were relatively inexperienced. Minister of State for Panchayati Raj Nihal Chand Meghwal was dropped in the reshuffle yesterday.