Tara Shankar Sahay in New Delhi
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on Saturday evening expanded his ministry by inducting two new cabinet ministers and four ministers of state, while elevating Arun Shourie and Shahnawaz Hussain to cabinet rank.
In addition to the induction of new members into his cabinet, the prime minister also reshuffled the cabinet portfolios.
The two new cabinet ministers sworn in on Saturday by President K R Narayanan at the glittering Ashoka hall in Rashtrapati Bhavan were tribal Bharatiya Janata Party leader Karia Munda and the party's 'trusted' treasurer Ved Prakash Goel.
The four new ministers of state inducted were Rajiv Pratap Rudi, Ravi Shankar Prasad, M K Annasaheb Patil and Vijay Goel.
The ministers whose portfolios have been reshuffled are as follows:
Ram Vilas Paswan - Mines, Steel and Coal (earlier the Telecom minister)
Jagmohan - Tourism (earlier the Urban Development minister)
Pramod Mahajan - Telecom (earlier Parliamentary Affairs Minister & Information Technology Minister)
Sharad Yadav - Labour (earlier Civil Aviation minister)
Maneka Gandhi - Culture and Animal Husbandry (earlier Social Justice and Empowerment minister)
Ananth Kumar - Urban Development (earlier Tourism minister)
Syed Shahnawaz Hussain - Civil Aviation (earlier Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports)
The portfolios of the newly inducted cabinet ministers are as follows:
Ved Prakash Goel - Shipping
Satyanarayan Jatia - Social Justice
Arun Shourie has been promoted to a cabinet rank. He gets to keep the divestment ministry.
With the induction of six new faces, the strength of the council of ministers has gone up to 77.
The portfolios of the four new ministers of state inducted will be announced on Sunday.
Vajpayee's decision to promote Shourie and Hussain to cabinet rank is being perceived by political observers as the prime minister's shrewd move to reward the divestment minister's professional calibre and Hussain's personal loyalty to him, as the only Muslim minister in the government.
Munda had earlier turned the prime minister's offer of making him a minister of state and preferred to lie low.
The induction of Ved Prakash Goel and Hussain is also being interpreted as a measure to influence the electorate in Uttar Pradesh.
Vajpayee's apparent thinking is the Muslims in Uttar Pradesh would not ignore Hussain's elevation to cabinet rank.
He also expects the Bania community to be pleased with Goel's cabinet rank.
Analysts also said the prime minister's expansion has indicated that he has re-asserted his authority both in the party and the government.
Rudy, Prasad and Vijay Goel are forceful speakers and their induction has shown that the prime minister has taken cognizance of their performance as party MPs.
Despite Saturday's expansion, a feeling persists among some observers that the prime minister could well effect another expansion soon wherein some new ministers including that of Trinamul could be accommodated.
Rebel Trinamul MP and former minister of state for external affairs, Ajit Kumar Panja, is still hopeful of being accommodated into the Union cabinet.
However, with the re-entry of the Trinamul Congress into the ruling National Democratic Alliance, Panja's ministerial aspirations would have to wait.
After assuming power, Vajpayee had first reshuffled his cabinet on November 22, 1999 when he inducted Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, Rajnath Singh C P Thakur and Arun Shourie.
Next he reshuffled his cabinet on May 27, 2000 when Arjun Charan Sethi and P K Tripathi were inducted.
The third reshuffle occurred on December 30, 2000 when Sushma Swaraj and M Venkaiah Naidu were made cabinet ministers.
Uma Bharti was inducted later along with B C Khanduri and the portfolios of some ministers were reshuffled.
On July 4 this year, the prime minister inducted Ajit Singh as the Union Agriculture Minister.
Six new ministers sworn, two promoted
Four minister of state resign
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