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Profiles of new ministers

January 29, 2006 16:59 IST

Following are the profiles of the new ministers inducted in the United Progressive Alliance government:

Sushil Kumar Shinde: From a humble beginning as a court employee to the office of governor and now into the Union Cabinet, Sushil Kumar Shinde has tread a long and tough journey in his life.

Hailing from a poor cobbler's family in Solapur district, 65-year-old Shinde, a protege of Maratha leader Sharad Pawar, became the first Dalit chief minister of Maharashtra in January, 2003.

He was a sub-inspector in the state police intelligence wing when in 1971 he quit the government job and plunged into politics at the behest of Pawar, the then rising Congress politician.

Shinde was successfully elected legislator from Karmala constituency in Solapur district and became a minister of state in the Vasantrao Naik ministry.

Shinde resigned from Congress Party in 1978 and joined the Progressive Democratic Front government led by Pawar.

He remained with Pawar in the Congress (S) even after the PDF government was dismissed in 1980.

But, within three years, Shinde re-joined Congress to become finance minister in the Vasantrao Patil government and
had a distinction of being the only finance minister to present nine successive budgets.

He was Congress president Sonia Gandhi's campaign manager in Amethi in 1999. In 2002, he contested the election for the post of vice president of India against National Democratic Alliance's Bhairon Singh Shekhawat and lost. 

Despite leading the party to victory in 2004 assembly polls, he was replaced by Vilasrao Deshmukh and on October 30, 2004, was appointed Andhra Pradesh governor.

A R Antulay: An old loyalist of the Nehru-Gandhi family, 77-year old Abdul Rehman Antulay or 'Barrister Antulay' as he is known in Maharashtra political circles, would be one of the seniormost ministers in the UPA government.

The four-time Lok Sabha member from Kulaba Lok Sabha constituency in the coastal Konkan region, had shot into limelight after the controversial cement scam during his tenure as Maharashtra chief minister.

He lost his job as chief minister and became a political pariah for years, though years later the courts gave him a clean chit.

A barrister-at law, Antulay was educated at Bombay University and Lincolin's Inn, London. He began his political career in the late 50s and in 1960, was appointed Youth Congress president of Maharashtra. In 1962, he became District Congress Committee president and also MPCC general secretary.

During 1962-76 and 1980-89, he was a Member of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly and served on various legislative panels.

Antulay was inducted as minister of state into the state cabinet in 1969 and till February 1976, held portfolios like law and judiciary, ports and fisheries. He was later elevated to cabinet rank and handled law and judiciary, building, communication and housing.

His moment of crowning glory came in June 1980 when he became chief minister of Maharashtra. He remained in the post till January 1982, when he quit the post in the wake of the cement scam. Antulay was a member of the Rajya Sabha during 1976-80. He was elected to the Lok Sabha in 1989, 1991 and 1996. During June 1995 and May 1996, he was Union Cabinet minister of health and family welfare and also held additional charge of water resources in 1996.

Vayalar Ravi: A die-hard Congressman, 69-year old Vayalar Ravi hails from the Communist bastion of Alapuzha district of Kerala and has been a key player of Congress politics in the state for the last five decades.

A staunch Nehruvian and believer of 'reforms with a human face', ministerial positions had often eluded his long career while he found a place in the powerful Congress Working Committee as early as the 1970s.

Born in a middle class family in Vayalar village (famed for the Communist-led uprising of the 1940s) in Alapuzha district, Ravi began his career as founder president of the Congress' students wing Kerala Students Union in the early 1960s. He later led the Youth Congress in the state and played a key role with A K Antony in building Congress as a mass force in Kerala by attracting people from all classes and social groups to the party.

The 1969 split in the Congress made Ravi a nationally-known figure as a 'Young Turk' staunchily backing the left-of-the-Centre policies of Indira Gandhi. He was elected to the Lok Sabha in 1971 and 1977.

Elected to the Kerala Assembly in 1982 and 1987, Ravi served as state home minister from 1982 to 1986.

Though a key figure of the anti-Karunakaran axis for long, Ravi had a brief stint in the Karunakaran camp in early 1990s. But he soon returned to his traditional moorings as a vocal critic of Karunakaran.

A keen trade unionist, Ravi founded several central government staff and PSUs unions and has served on important labour-related panels at the Centre.

Now a Rajya Sabha member, Ravi had served as AICC general secretary and KPCC president. His wife Mercy Ravi is a member of the Kerala Assembly.

Ambika Soni: Making her debut in the Union Council of Ministers, the 62-year-old Sonia Gandhi loyalist had hogged national limelight as president of the Indian Youth Congress during the Emergency in 1975.

Closely associated with late Sanjay Gandhi, she was elected to Rajya Sabha in 1976 and was made All India Mahila Congress president in 1998.

She has been general secretary of the All India Congress Committee from 1999 onwards and has been a member of several parliamentary and ministerial consulatative committees.

Shibu Soren: Soren, who returned to the Union Council of Ministers, is widely regarded as the doyen of the movement for creation of Jharkhand state.

But, Soren's chequered political career has its share of controversies. He became embroiled in a number of criminal cases, among them the Chirudi murder case in Jamtara in 1975, which cost him the portfolio of Union coal minister in the Dr Singh's government. He was also embroiled in JMM bribery case during the P V Narasimha Rao regime for which he was acquitted.

Soren became the chief minister of Jharkhand for a brief period in 2005 after his controversial swearing in, which had triggered widespread protests by BJP and Janata Dal-United, which had boycotted the oath-taking ceremony for not being invited despite emerging as the "largest" pre-poll grouping.

The former chief minister was born into a Santhal school teacher's family at Nemra village under Gola police station in Hazaribagh district in 1944.

Soren began his political career by launching a fight against moneylenders after his father Somlang's murder. Soon he formed the Santhal Sudhav Samaj at Dhanbad.

He founded the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, a major political party in the state, in 1972 and became its general secretary.

Fifteen years later he took over as its president, a post he continues to hold.

Known among his followers as 'Guruji', he had struggled with some other political parties for Jharkhand statehood and had served as the chairman of Jharkhand Autonomous Council.

His first foray into parliamentatry politics was in 1980 when he was elected to Parliament from Dumka. In 1985, he was elected to the then Bihar assembly from Jama.

Murli Deora: Among Mumbai's most flamboyant politicians, Congress leader Murli Deora is known to be equally comfortable in the company of his party men and the 'Page 3' clique.

A four-term Lok Sabha member, Deora began his political innings as a municipal councilor in 1968. He rose to become Mumbai's youngest mayor in 1977, capping his decade-old civic career.

During his tenure at the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, Deora played a key role in setting up the city's water supply and sewage system.

He became a member of the Maharashtra Legislative Council in 1982.

Deora was first elected to Lok Sabha from south Mumbai constituency in 1984 in the Rajiv Gandhi wave that swept the nation after Indira Gandhi's assassination.

He retained the seat in the 1989, 1991 and 1998 polls. In 2002, he became a Rajya Sabha member.

A graduate in Economics from University of Mumbai, Deora was chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance. He was also member of the parliamentary committees attached to key ministries like planning, energy, science and technology and also became chairman of Parliamentary Sub-Committee on Fast Track Power Projects.

Deora was president of the Mumbai Regional Congress Committee from 1981 to 2002, the longest innings of any MRCC chief. He played a key role in organising the Congress centenary celebrations in Mumbai in 1985 where the then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi announced a special grant of Rs 100 crore for Mumbai's development.

Saifuddin Soz: Educationist, economist, writer, political and social worker, 69-year old Soz was elected to the Lok Sabha in 1983 and represents the sensitive state of Jammu and Kashmir in the Union Cabinet after the exit of Ghulam Nabi Azad, who has since become the state chief minister.

Soz was leader of the Jammu and Kashmir National Conference from 1984 to 1999.

He hit the national headlines when he differed with his party chief Farooq Abdullah and voted against the then Vajpayee government, defying the party whip, and bringing down the 13-month BJP-led coalition.

Soz joined the Congress thereafter and was elected to the Rajya Sabha in 2004. He has served several parliamentary and consultative committees with distinction and has written extensively on subjects ranging from Islam to literature.

Minister of State with Independent Charge:

G K Vasan: President of Tamil Nadu Congress Committee and son of late G K Moopanar, G K Vasan achieved what his father could not by becoming a minister at the Centre.

Vasan was a greenhorn in Tamil Manila Congress, which he had formed in 1996 against Congress alliance with All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham.

42-year-old Vasan was elected to Rajya Sabha from Tamil Nadu after his party merged with Congress.

Appointed as the working resident of the state unit of the party first, he later made it to the Upper House.

Vasan is said to have helped his father when Tamil Manila Congress was formed.

Ministers of State:

Pawan Kumar Bansal: The 58-year-old three times Congress Lok Sabha MP from Chandigarh Union Territory would be making his debut in the Union Council of Ministers.

Bansal, who was in the thick of a controversy only recently, resigned as Chairman of the parliamentary committee probing the alleged misuse of MPLADS funds even though he has denied the allegation of his having recommended grant for a squash court in Chandigarh in lieu of an honorary membership of the Chandigarh Golf Club.

He started his political career in 1976 when he was made the general secretary of the Chandigarh Territorial Youth Congress, a post he held till 1978.

In 1978 he moved over to Punjab becoming the general secretary of the Punjab Pradesh Youth Congress.

In 1982 Bansal become the President of the Chandigarh Territorial Youth Congress. But in the same year he was elected president of Punjab Pradesh Youth Congress till 1983.

An advocate by profession, Bansal first entered Parliament by becoming the member of the Rajya Sabha in 1984.

He made maiden entry to the 10th Lok Sabha in 1991.

Anand Sharma: A spokesman of the Congress party and a Rajya Sabha member from Himachal Pradesh, Sharma is a keen student of international affairs and security subjects.

Sharma, 53, was first elected to Rajya Sabha in 1984 and was a spokesman of the party during the tourbled times of Bofors controversy.

He did graduation with political science and economics from Himachal University, Shimla, and later obtained a law degree.

He started his political career as a student leader and remained the president of the state unit of the Youth Congress.

He rose to become president of Indian Youth Congress during Rajiv Gandhi's prime ministership.

He was also the chairperson of the first non-aligned youth conference held in 1985, in which 82 countries participated and the International youth Conference against Apartheid in 1987.

Sharma became Secretary in the AICC and was appointed as one of its spokespersons a few years later. 

Ajay Maken: A former president of the Delhi University Students Union, 42-year-old Maken is seen as part of the gen-next brigade of the Congress in Parliament.

Younger brother of late Congress leader Lalit Maken, Ajay was elected to the Delhi Assmbly thrice consecutively from 1993 to 2004 and served as parliamentary secretary to Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit from 1999 to 2001.

He served as transport and power minister of the national capital and was elected assembly speaker in 2004, one of the youngest to hold the post.

Maken was elected to the Lok Sabha in 2004 and is a member of the panel of chairman of the Lower House.

Akhilesh Das: Elected to the Rajya Sabha in November 1996, the 44-year old businessman and international badminton player was mayor of Lucknow from 1993 to 1995.

He was general secretary of the UP Congress Committee and has served as member in consultative committees attached to various ministries.

M M Pallam Raju: An engineer by profession and a product of the Temple University, Philadelphia, USA, M M Pallam Raju, 44, was elected to the ninth Lok Sabha in 1989.

He was general secretary of the Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee from 1995 to 2000 and was made a member of the All India Congress Committee in 1997. He was re-elected to the Lok Sabha in May 2004. 

D Purandareshwari: A well-known gemologist, 47-year old D Purandareshwari is the daughter of TDP founder late N T Rama Rao and sister-in-law of former Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu.

Wife of Congress MLA, Daggupati Venkateshwar Rao, who walked out ofthe TDP when Naidu took over, she too began her political career with the TDP, but switched loyalty to the Congress as she felt that TDP no longer followed her father's ideology.

Ashwani Kumar: A senior Supreme Court advocate, 54-year old Ashwani Kumar served as additional solicitor general in 1991 and was elected to the Rajya Sabha in May 2002.

A product of the prestigious St Stephen's College of Delhi and the Jawaharlal Nehru University, he was re-elected to the Rajya Sabha in April 2004.

Chandrasekhar Sahu: An advocate by profession, 56-year old Chandra Sekhar Sahu was made general secretary of the Orissa Pradesh Congress Committee in 1997 and was elected to the 14th Lok Sabha from Berhampur constituency defeating Anadi Charan Sahu of the BJP.

An activist during his student days, Sahu was twice the chairman of the Berhampur Municipal Council and also served as the city's mayor.

He was pitted by the Congress to contest the Aska Lok Sabha constituency against Naveen Patnaik in 1997 after it fell vacant following the demise of Biju Patnaik, but was defeated.

Ministers of State (Without Portfolio):

T Subbirami Reddy: 63-year old T Subbarami Reddy, who was sworn in as a minister of state, is a versatile personality with diverse interests in films to spirituality and business to culture.

Reddy, a successful businessman, is presently chairman of Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanam, the body that administers the famous Lord Venkateswara temple in Tirupati.

He produced films like Bhagavad Gita which won prestigious national awards and commercially successful films in Telugu and Hindi, including Chandini and Lamhe.

Currently, a member of Rajya Sabha, he was a member of a the 11th and 12th Lok Sabha. He also held several senior positions in the Congress party.

Jairam Ramesh: 52-year old Jairam Ramesh, who made a debut in the Union Council of Minsters, was part of the Congress election strategy team for the 14th Lok Sabha elections and played a key role in the preparation of the National Common Minimum Programme of the UPA.

Ramesh, who has headed the Economic Cell of the AICC for several years, has also served as its secretary and as economic advisor to several state governments, Planning Commission and to the pime mnister.

An alumni of Indian Institute of Technology, MIT and Carnegie Mellon University, the Rajya Saha MP from Andhra Pradesh is currently a member of the National Advisory Council led by Sonia Gandhi.

Dinshaw Patel: Businessman and agriculturist, the 69-year MP from Kaira in Gujarat began his political career as a member of the Nadiad Municipal Council in 1972.

A minister in the Gujarat Government from 1990-95, he was elected to Lok Sabha in 1996 and was re-elected to the Lower House for the fourth term in 2004.

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