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Shourie, Jaitley get plum portfolios

By BS Political Bureau in New Delhi
January 29, 2003 22:26 IST

Divestment Minister Arun Shourie bagged the communication and IT ministries, while Arun Jaitley on Wednesday returned to the Union Cabinet with three major portfolios of commerce and industry, and law, in a reshuffle that saw the exit of eight ministers and the induction of an equal number.

Communications Minister Pramod Mahajan, Law and Justice Minister Jana Krishnamurthy, Coal Minister Uma Bharati and Shipping Minister Ved Prakash Goyal were among the eight who resigned from the government just ahead of the reshuffle.

C P Thakur also returned to the government (in charge of north-eastern affairs and small-scale industries) in a reshuffle that held out a promise of radical restructuring, but turned out to be more of an exercise in musical chairs.

The six new ministers of state include Sangh Priya Gautam (independent charge), Dilip Judev, Chatrapal Singh, Dilip Sanghani, Jaskaur Meena, and Bhavna Chikalia.

The four ministers of state who resigned were Vasundhara Raje (small-scale industries), Raman Singh (commerce and industry, and is tipped to take over as Chhattisgarh BJP president), Nikhil Kumar Choudhary (agro and rural industries), and Rita Verma (HRD).

Raje is set to move to Rajasthan for full-time work as the president of BJP's state unit. Parliamentary affairs, vacated by Mahajan, will now be with Sushma Swaraj, who will shed information and broadcasting. Sushma also gets Health, previously held by Shatrughan Sinha, the new shipping minister.

Minister of State for Law and Coal Ravishankar Prasad gets independent charge of the information and broadcasting ministry, thereby becoming the minister with the fastest promotions in the government.

Cabinet Minister Karia Munda will take coal from Uma Bharati, who has resigned to take charge of the party in Madhya Pradesh.

Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office Vijay Goel has been shifted to labour with additional charge of parliamentary affairs.

In a significant move, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee shifted the personnel department, which includes the Central Bureau of Investigation, to the home ministry headed by Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani.

Talking to reporters after the swearing in, Vajpayee regretted that Law and Justice Minister Jana Krishnamurthy chose to resign from the Cabinet rather than accepting some other portfolio. Vajpayee said he tried to persuade Krishnamurthy to take up some other portfolio, but to no avail.

The prime minister said the changes effected in the BJP and the government were aimed at strengthening the party, increasing its popularity and also the confidence the people have in the party.

"Some people in the government have been drafted for party work, while some from the party have been taken in the government. All the changes made are part of a natural process," he said.

BS Political Bureau in New Delhi