Cautious Rahul Gandhi puts performance above proximity
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While Rahul Gandhi did play a key role in Sunday's reshuffle, indicated by the promotion of many young Ministers of State, the Congress general secretary took care to ensure that the message that went out was that performance rather than proximity to him counted above all else.
Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh, for instance, was said to be eyeing a more high-profile portfolio. Instead, he was divested of Drinking Water & Sanitation, which had been given to him after Gurudas Kamat refused to take charge of this ministry last year. Perceived as close to Rahul, Ramesh's stance on issues such as the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill was said to be guided by the former's political agenda — or so it was projected.
Among the young Ministers of State who were promoted and given Independent charge were Rahul's close aide and Alwar MP Jitendra Singh (Youth Affairs & Sports), Jyotiraditya Scindia (Power) and Sachin Pilot (Corporate Affairs). Jitendra Singh also becomes MoS, Defence. Apart from the fact that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wanted to give a bigger role to young ministers in the decision-making process, they are all known to be competent ministers who showed keen interest in their work.
Though Minister of State Jitin Prasada also impressed with his performance, he was only moved from Road Transport to Human Resource Development. Congress MP from Uttar Pradesh R P N Singh got the high-profile Home portfolio in addition to Petroleum. Incidentally, an official communique had declared that Jitin Prasada will hold the dual portfolio of Defence and HRD. Late in the evening, it was clarified that Prasada was allotted only HRD and Jitendra Singh would hold the additional charge of MoS, Defence. Official sources sought to play down the episode, saying that confusion had been caused by the "similarity" in their names and that it was a clerical error.