New Delhi Bureau
Farooq, Virbhadra, Deshmukh, Vasan, Kharge in
Choice guided by blend of experience and youth and regional representation
14 more Cabinet Ministers, 7 Ministers of State with independent charge and 38 MoS
NEW DELHI: After prolonged consultations with the senior Congress leadership and allies, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday announced the names he recommended to the President for inclusion in the Union Council of Ministers. The 59 new additions will be sworn in on Thursday morning.
The list — 14 in the Cabinet rank, seven Ministers of State (MoS) with independent charge and 38 Ministers of State — seeks to strike a balance between administrative experience and regional representation with a fair number of “youthful faces.” The portfolios will be announced after the swearing-in.
The face of the new Ministry was unveiled by the Prime Minister’s Office in the afternoon just as Dr. Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi were calling up every new entrant to inform him or her of his or her inclusion. The new entrants include four from pre-poll allies of the Congress: Dayanidhi Maran, A. Raja and M.K. Azhagiri from the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), and Farooq Abdullah from the National Conference.
The Congress will be further represented in the Cabinet by Virbhadra Singh, Vilasrao Deshmukh, Mallikarjun Kharge, Selja, Subodh Kant Sahay, M.S. Gill, G.K. Vasan, Pawan Kumar Bansal, Mukul Wasnik and Kantilal Bhuria. Notable exclusions from the last Ministry are H.R. Bharadwaj, Arjun Singh, Oscar Fernandes, Sisram Ola and Saifuddin Soz.
While putting together his Ministry, Dr. Singh has opted for talent and tested hands from within the Congress. Only in the case of the allies did he leave the selection to their leaders.
At the level of Ministers of State (Independent charge), some amount of innovativeness has been displayed with the inclusion of Salman Khursheed and the elevation of Dinsha Patel and Jairam Ramesh.
The other Ministers of State (Independent charge) are Praful Patel, Prithviraj Chavan, Sriprakash Jaiswal and Krishna Tirath. Of these, Mr. Patel held the same designation last time round and Ms. Tirath is a newcomer to the Ministry. The other two are promotees.
The 38 Ministers of State include six from the Trinamool Congress, four from the DMK, and one each from the Indian Union Muslim League and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). The new faces from the Congress are Srikant Jena, Mullappally Ramachandran, A. Sai Prathap, Gurudas Kamat, Mahadev Khandela, Harish Rawat, K.V. Thomas, Preneet Kaur, Sachin Pilot, Shashi Tharoor, Bharatsinh Solanki, Tusharbhai Chaudhary, Arun Yadav, R.P.N. Singh, Pradeep Jain, Prateek Prakashbapu Patil and Vincent Pala.
The list raised eyebrows and drew murmurs; particularly the poor representation to Andhra Pradesh, which many in the Congress billed as a game-changer State for the party in the Lok Sabha elections. The Congress picked up 33 seats in the State but has only one face in the Cabinet, besides five in the Ministry. Contrast this with Kerala, where the Congress and its allies got 16 seats, but have managed six perches in the Ministry. Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh, too, have got a better deal despite a poor showing by the party in the two States.
Haryana — which has sent nine Congress leaders to the 15th Lok Sabha — has got only one Ministry. And, from the northeast — where the Congress is back in the reckoning — the only State outside Assam to be represented is Meghalaya. Both MPs from the State have got a Ministry each while Manipur, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh find no representation despite the Congress sweeping the polls there.
Maharashtra has a sizable presence with nine representatives in the Ministry, including two from the NCP. In contrast, Uttar Pradesh has not found a Cabinet perch and has only three faces in the Ministry on the lower rungs.