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The only ripple: Jairam out of Environment,Moily of Law

Reshuffle: Sulking Gurudas Kamat quits,K C Deo rewarded; PM says keeping 2 seats for DMK.

Written by Swaraj Thapa | New Delhi |
July 13, 2011 2:27:14 am

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had promised a major Cabinet shake-up last January to signal accountability and a sense of renewal to his beleaguered government but when it came today,the shunting out of Jairam Ramesh and Veerappa Moily was the only ripple it created.

Singh brought eight new faces into his Council of Ministers,dropped seven but these were seen as little more than tweaks creating impact more by the sense of discontent sparked off among those adversely affected.

At least one of them,Gurudas Kamat,openly showed his annoyance by opting out of the Council of Ministers after he felt slighted for being put in charge of what he thought was a lightweight department as minister of state (independent charge).

Ramesh’s shift from Environment,on the other hand,comes after he had taken on a string of Ministries and even the Prime Minister in a series of letters questioning the UPA’s policies — from Arunachal Pradesh to nuclear power,the Navi Mumbai airport project,Posco and the Go-No Go classification for coal mines and forest areas.

Jayanthi Natarajan,inducted as MoS (Independent charge),with the Environment & Forest portfolio has her task cut out.

Those present at the swearing-in ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhawan marked that Ramesh was the only exception who did not walk up to the Prime Minister,opting to greet him from the podium itself. “Jairam has been given more extensive responsibilities and I hope this time his talents would be utilised better,” the Prime Minister said after the ceremony.

Moily’s move to Corporate Affairs from Law — Salman Khursheed was his replacement — was also a clear indication that the Prime Minister’s patience had finally run out after being driven to constantly engage in damage control when it came to the government’s troubled interface with the legal establishment.

Moily’s apparent inability to play mediator and arrest the growing divide between the government and judiciary led to the slew of court strictures on a range of issues including the 2G spectrum scam,the CVC appointment and the latest directive to set up an unprecedented — and highly unusual — SIT on black money.

The sense of disappointment in the half-way measure that the Prime Minister undertook was evident when a senior leader suggested that changes should have been made in critical ministries like Power and Civil Aviation,especially when the chances of another reshuffle were now slim.

The Prime Minister,however,maintained that the message from the reshuffle was of equilibrium and efficacy. “Each Cabinet reshuffle reflects the balance which is necessary. All elements of efficacy and continuity were taken into consideration,” he said. He asserted that two seats have been kept vacant for the DMK representatives. He also indicated that this may be the last reshuffle before 2014 though qualifying with: “There is no finality in life”.

Like the last time,this reshuffle,too,was marred by the sulking defiance of those who felt snubbed. Kamat,of course,stayed away from the ceremony. Srikant Jena,too,was unhappy with his partial promotion but colleagues advised him against any public outbursts as he had done the last time.

Kamat,who was elevated and given independent charge,was unhappy with his Drinking Water and Sanitation portfolio. He said that he had written to his party president Sonia Gandhi and the Prime Minister to relieve him of his ministerial responsibility. “There is no question of any disappointment over the portfolio…The reasons are totally personal,” he said.

The Prime Minister was asked a question on Rahul Gandhi’s induction into the Cabinet but he said that the young leader had refused on more than one occasion,pointing to other priorities.

Four Cabinet Ministers were sworn in today: Ramesh,V Kishore Chandra Deo,Beni Prasad Verma and Dinesh Trivedi who was ally Trinamool Congress’s choice as Mamata Banerjee’s replacement in Railway Ministry.

The elevation of the influential Kurmi community leader Beni Prasad Verma was driven by political considerations in Uttar Pradesh which goes to polls next year. Deo,on whom the party has often leaned at crucial times — he headed the Lok Sabha panel to look into the cash-for-vote scandal,headed the Privileges Committee and was a member of the JPC on 2G spectrum scam — was finally rewarded with a Cabinet berth.

With the last few sessions of Parliament marked by disruptions and the government looking to push key legislation,the Prime Minister today brought in two new faces to help better coordinate floor management in the House.

Rajeev Shukla,who was inducted as Minister of State,and Harish Rawat were drafted in to assist Pawan Kumar Bansal in Parliamentary Affairs.

Assam MP Paban Singh Ghatowar,who was also inducted as MoS with Independent charge,was given the charge of Development of North Eastern Region.

Five new faces were inducted as Minister of State,including Sudip Bandyopadhyay,Charan Das Mahant,Jitendra Singh,Milind Deora and Rajeev Shukla.

Mahant,an MP from Chhattisgarh,who got Agriculture and Food Processing is said to have Digvijay Singh’s blessings while Sonia’s political secretary Ahmad Patel is said to have been behind Shukla’s debut as Minister.

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