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Reshuffle shows Rahul, Ahmed Patel clout

Last updated on: January 20, 2011 17:45 IST
Sources tell Renu Mittal that Wednesday's ministerial reshuffle bears the stamp of Rahul Gandhi and Ahmed Patel, Sonia Gandhi's political secretary.

Wednesday's reshuffle of Prime Manmohan Singh's ministry has the obvious stamp of two people: Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi and party President Sonia Gandhi's political secretary Ahmed Patel, both of whom have got their way on issues that matter to them.

Sources claim Rahul Gandhi has been feeling uneasy about the alleged links between some corporate houses and some ministers.

The supposed proximity of Petroleum Minister Murli Deora and his minister of state Jitin Prasada to Reliance Chairman Mukesh Ambani, these sources claim, was the reason why both men were moved out of petroleum, a business where Ambani has a huge presence.

Jaipal Reddy's image and the fact that he is not seen as close to any corporate house is the reason why he was made petroleum minister, the sources add.

This is also why Salman Khurshid was moved from corporate affairs and given charge of water resources along with minority affairs even though he has been elevated to Cabinet rank, the sources claim.

After the Comptroller and Auditor General report stated that Anil Ambani held a 10 per cent stake in Swan Telecom, the sources claim Khurshid gave the younger Ambani a clean chit, saying this was not true.

The top Congress leadership, the sources add, also did not take kindly to the fact that a Khurshid associate was reportedly appointed to a senior position in the Anil Ambani group after he was made corporate affairs minister.

Politics also played a part in Rahul's calculations.

Beni Prasad Verma was inducted as a minister of state with independent charge after Rahul insisted that he was a Kurmi leader and should be inducted keeping next year's assembly election in Uttar Pradesh in mind.

Verma is unhappy though, since he served as a Cabinet minister in the United Front government in the late 1990s. He was then a member of the Samajwadi Party.

The decision to elevate both Sriprakash Jaiswal and Khurshid to Cabinet rank also came from Rahul, keeping in mind the UP election, particularly since there has been criticism that there is no Cabinet minister from the politically crucial state.

It was also decided to keep a minister of state from UP in the key infrastructure ministry of road and highways. With R P N Singh's appointment as minister of state for petroleum and corporate affairs, Jitin Prasada, another MP from UP, has been sent to roads and highways.

Ahmed Patel brought his confidant V Narayanswamy as a minister of state in the Prime Minister's Office, filling the vacancy left by Prithviraj Chavan when he moved to Maharashtra as chief minister. Chavan was also seen as a Patel appointee.

Sources say Narayanswamy's appointment speaks volumes about the clout Patel enjoys in the Congress party.

Among the others who were in trouble and Patel adjusted rather well are Vilasrao Deshmukh, Ajay Makken, and some ministers of state.

Sources say the impending reshuffle of the All India Congress Committee may be as tame as the ministerial reshuffle since no minister has been dropped, leaving Sonia Gandhi with little scope to bring in fresh faces.

Also read:
PM walks softly, carries a big stick
Reshuffle shows weakness of Congress leadership
Cabinet reshuffle with UP, Kerala polls in mind?
Cabinet reshuffle: Who got what

Renu Mittal in New Delhi