Indian PM overhauls cabinet ahead of 2014 polls

By AFP
Published: October 28, 2012
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Indian President Pranab Mukherjee (5L) and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (7L) pose with India's new ministers after a swearing-in ceremony at The Presidental Palace in New Delhi on October 28, 2012.

Indian President Pranab Mukherjee (5L) and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (7L) pose with India's new ministers after a swearing-in ceremony at The Presidental Palace in New Delhi on October 28, 2012.

Salman Khurshid told reporters that he saw "great opportunities... but also great challenges to peace and prosperity in our world".PHOTO: AFP Indian President Pranab Mukherjee (5L) and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (7L) pose with India's new ministers after a swearing-in ceremony at The Presidental Palace in New Delhi on October 28, 2012. The other newcomers include Rahman Khan who was named as minority affairs minister. PHOTO: AFP Ajay Maken becomes housing minister. PHOTO: AFP The law ministry went to Ashwani Kumar, a ruling Congress party loyalist. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW DELHI: Indian Premier Manmohan Singh brought seven new faces into his cabinet Sunday in the biggest reshuffle since his re-election as he tried to revive his party’s flagging fortunes before polls due in 2014.

Singh named Salman Khurshid, 59, as a replacement for the 80-year-old foreign minister SM Krishna as he attempted to dispel the image of a struggling government, which recently lost its majority.

However there was no place at the cabinet table for Rahul Gandhi, the 42-year-old scion of the Gandhi-Nehru political dynasty, who once again turned down an offer to enter government.

Speaking to reporters after a swearing-in ceremony for the new ministers, Singh said he expected his new team to remain in office until the next elections.

“Probably this is the last reshuffle,” the prime minister said at the presidential palace in New Delhi. “I don’t see early elections. Elections will be held in due course.”

The law ministry went to Ashwani Kumar, a ruling Congress party loyalist.

The other newcomers include Rahman Khan who was named as minority affairs minister, Ajay Maken who becomes housing minister and Dinsha Patel who is now mines minister.

They will be joined by Pallam Raju, who was promoted to human resources development minister. Harish Rawat was placed in charge of water resources and Chandresh Kumari was appointed culture minister.

Singh named parliamentary affairs minister Pawan Kumar Bansal as new railways minister, a post which became vacant following the pullout of a regional ally, Trinamool, from the ruling coalition in September.

The government has been mired in scandal in recent months, most notably by revelations surrounding the tender process for state-owned coal mines.

Economic growth, which had been touching double figures at the beginning of Singh’s second term, has now slowed down to around five percent.

Trinamool’s pullout in protest at a series of economic reforms means the government is now a minority administration. It is no immediate danger of falling as it has secured the support of another regional party which is outside cabinet.

India’s two largest opposition parties scoffed at the shakeup, dubbing it a futile exercise by a scandal-tainted government.

“It is a vain exercise by the government to refurbish its image in the face of the corruption charges it is facing,” Rajiv Pratap Rudi, spokesman of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, told AFP.

Communists, who have dubbed the recent rush of reforms by the government as “anti-people”, also mocked the long-awaited revamp.

“The policies of the government will be the same they have been pursuing,” Prakash Karat, general secretary of the Communist Party of India-Marxist, told AFP.

Analysts too doubted that Sunday’s overhaul would do much for Congress’s fortunes when the country votes in an election scheduled for the spring of 2014.

“The cabinet reshuffle is a wake-up call which has come too late, just as the big-ticket reforms have come too late,” said Ajay Saha, a political scientist at Delhi University.

Khurshid said the new ministers were expected to think “out of the box”.

The new foreign minister told reporters that he saw “great opportunities… but also great challenges to peace and prosperity in our world”.

Singh confirmed that he had offered a cabinet post to Rahul Gandhi, whose father, grandmother and great-grandfather all served as prime minister, but the offer was declined.

“I wanted Rahul Gandhi in government but he wants to strengthen the party,” Singh said.

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Reader Comments (7)

  • Mohammad Ali Siddiqui
    Oct 28, 2012 - 5:14PM

    Reshuffle in the Indian cabinet is an unsuccessful attempt of Mr. Manmohan Singh to change the image of Congress at the 11th hour.

    Unfortunately, in the South Asian’s Countries, the political leaders try to eye wash by taking such actions, whereas, a common man when vote for a party to bring into power does not forget the commitments made by the legislators during the election campaign.

    Practically, it is possible for any ruling party to come into power time and again, provided it start working in the interest of a common man by solving his problems one by one.

    But this does not happen and then masses become adamant in changing the government.

    Politically speaking, reshuffling the ministers cannot do any thing good for the masses, as the incoming ministers are more inclined in making money during the short term tenure and in self projecting.

    The accountability of any politically elected government start from the day one when the cabinet sworn in, but this important factor is ignored by the elected representatives, more particularly, by those who sits on the treasury benches.

    I wish if Indian Congress make its way and form the government after 2014 elections, but I have serious doubts in it, as an Indian common man does not seems to be satisfied by the working of the Congress.

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  • GT
    Oct 28, 2012 - 7:12PM

    Lol regardless you will not be in power in 2014. Time has come for you perish into India’s history books.

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  • gp65
    Oct 28, 2012 - 9:26PM

    Amul baby unwilling to accept any role where his performance in governing can be judged. Does not speak in the Parliament. His success in strengthening the party was noted during the UP elections which he had made test case and also the Bihar elections prior to that. Yet he is considered Prime Minister candidate for 2014 elections in a party which has people of Chidambaram’s calibre. Height of dynastic politics.

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  • Maverick
    Oct 29, 2012 - 12:40AM

    Rogue’s gallery!

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  • Arindom
    Oct 29, 2012 - 12:56AM

    Sad that spotless Congress leaders of the calibre of Chidambaram, Mukherjee, Krishna, Antony have to make way for the incompetent Amul Baby who is still “not ready”. Sad day for the people of India.

    BJP too is doing no better – the sooner it cleans it’s own stables and eases out people like Gadkari, the better.

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  • Polpot
    Oct 29, 2012 - 3:05AM

    @gp65: “Rahul to be designated No. 2 in Congress soon”
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Isnt that rather appropriate?

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  • Indian Wisdom
    Oct 29, 2012 - 10:18AM

    @Mohammad Ali Siddiqui:
    Beautifully said…..

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