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New-look Cabinet a mix of youth and experience

Last updated on: April 06, 2008 22:02 IST

Former Chief Election Commissioner M S Gill and Congress youth brigade members Jyotiraditya Scindia and Jitin Prasada were among the seven new faces inducted into the Union Council of Ministers as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stripped Manishankar Aiyar of Youth Affairs and Sports, and effected a reshuffle of portfolios.

Singh also dropped six Ministers of State and took away Parliamentary Affairs from P R Dasmunsi and gave it to Vayalar Ravi. Dasmunsi will continue to handle Overseas Indians Affairs.

Three other Congress MPs - V Narayanasamy, Rameshwar Oraon and Santosh Bagrodia - and Rashtriya Janata Dal MP Raghunath Jha were also sworn-in in the minor expansion of the ministry.

All the new entrants were accorded the status of Minister of State, except Gill, who gets independent charge.

Seventy-two-year-old Gill, who was elected to Rajya Sabha from Punjab on a Congress ticket, has been given Youth Affairs and Sports apparently in the wake of a running feud between Aiyar and Indian Olympic Association president Suresh Kalmadi.

The new ministers were administered the oath of office and secrecy by President Pratibha Patil at Rashtrapati Bhavan at a function attended by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Cabinet ministers.

Meanwhile, Congress president Sonia Gandhi said that she had wanted her son and party general secretary Rahul Gandhi to become a minister.

"I wanted Rahul to be made minister, but he refused," said Sonia Gandhi.

While Jyotiraditya, elected from Guna in Madhya Pradesh and scion of the Scindia dynasty, gets Communications and Information Technology, Prasada, son of late Congress leader Jitendra Prasada, gets Steel.

Tribal leader Oraon, elected from Lohardaga in Jharkhand, gets Tribal Affairs portfolio and Bettiah MP Jha has been allocated Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises portfolio.

Those who resigned ahead of the expansion were Manikrao Gavit (Home), Suresh Pachouri (Parliamentary Affairs and Personnel), Dasari Narayan Rao (Coal), M V Rajasekharan (Planning), T Subbarami Reddy (Mines) and Akhilesh Das (Steel)

With Sunday's exercise the total strength of Union Council of Ministers goes up by one to 80, of which 32 are of Cabinet rank, eight are MoS (IC) and 40 are MoS.

Sachin Pilot, another member of the Congress youth brigade, failed to find a place in the expansion, apparently because of the induction of Bagrodia, who also hails from Rajasthan. Bagrodia gets Coal.

Asked why not more than two young MPs were inducted, Gandhi said there was no scope because of coalition compulsion.

On induction of more young members, the Prime Minister said it was a suggestion for action.

Narayanasamy, member of the Congress vocal brigade in the Rajya Sabha, has been given Parliamentary Affairs and Planning.

In other changes made on Sunday, B K Handique sheds Parliamentary Affairs and gets Mines portfolio in addition to his present charge of Chemicals and Fertilisers.

Shakeel Ahmed moves from Communications and IT to Home, while high profile Jairam Ramesh gets Power in addition to Commerce. MoS Finance P K Bansal gets additional charge of Parliamentary Affairs.

MoS in the PMO Prithviraj Chavan gets additional charge of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pension and MoS HRD Kanti Singh has been shifted to Tourism and Culture.

Sunday's exercise ends the speculation, at least for the moment, of the entry of newcomers like DMK leader, Karunanidhi's daughter, Kanimozhi and Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar's daughter Supriya Sule into the ministry.

Image: President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with newly inducted Ministers at the oath taking ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on Sunday.

Photograph: PTI Photo by Vijay Verma

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