Assumes charge of S&T portfolio, skips Moily’s takeover

Senior Congress leader Jaipal Reddy on Monday assumed charge as Union Minister for Science and Technology amid speculation that he was shunted out of the Petroleum Ministry under pressure from a large industrial house.

Addressing a crowded press conference here after assuming charge, Mr. Reddy declined to comment on the reason for his being shifted.

He merely kept repeating, “It has been my effort to be a faithful party man and a truthful Minister. That has been my focus.”

“No move for rally”

Asked about reports that his supporters were planning to hold a protest rally in Andhra Pradesh, Mr. Reddy denied there was any such move.

He stressed that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had taken him into confidence about the change in his portfolio. Responding to a query, Mr. Reddy said he did not ask for the reason nor did the Prime Minister give one.

“The Prime Minister took me into confidence about the change in my portfolio. That was enough for me… My relationship with the PM is excellent. He has always shown affection for me and had implicit trust in me.”

Mr. Reddy, however, stressed that he was never eager for any specific portfolio. “I have never haggled for any portfolio… I don’t take position for portfolios. I take positions on issues.”

Interestingly, the veteran Congressman kept away when his successor M. Veerappa Moily took charge of the Petroleum Ministry earlier in the morning.

Asked about his priorities in his new portfolio, Mr. Reddy said he would strive to take forward the efforts to improve the global ranking of Indian science to the fifth position from the current ninth position by the end of the 12th Plan period, with an increase in the number of full-time researchers to 2.54 lakh from 1.54 lakh.

Noting that the government had been proactive in promoting science and technology and a budget of Rs. 60,800 crore had been allocated for it under the 12th Plan, he emphasised that Dr. Singh himself had been giving personal attention to the sector. “I am excited to be appointed as the Minister for Science and Technology.”

Asked about his views on genetically modified crops, Mr. Reddy said: “There is a debate going on globally. Let the scientific community itself first reach a consensus.”

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