PM sends message, promotes Khurshid

FP

Effecting what he said was "hopefully" the last Cabinet reshuffle before the next general elections, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday brought in 17 new faces in the Union Council of Ministers, including two in the Cabinet, while appointing Salman Khurshid as the Minister for External Affairs, and giving Pawan Kumar Bansal Railways.

Giving a larger role to youth in the decision-making process, young Ministers of State including Sachin Pilot, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Jitendra Singh have been given Independent charge of Corporate Affairs, Power, and Youth Affairs & Sports respectively, while Ludhiana MP Manish Tewari becomes MoS with Independent charge of Information & Broadcasting Ministry.

However, the strongest message of this Cabinet reshuffle was that the government would not let anti-corruption activists dictate its agenda. And the biggest signal of this was the elevation of Khurshid who has borne the brunt of protests by opposition parties and Arvind Kejriwal to the coveted MEA. Incidentally, Khurshid had minced no words in opposing the India-US nuclear deal, and it would be interesting to see how he reconciles his personal beliefs with the PM's larger foreign policy agenda.

Similarly, former Rajya Sabha deputy chairman K Rahman Khan was made a Cabinet minister despite allegations of misappropriation of funds by a cooperative bank in Karnataka he once headed. Shashi Tharoor, who had to resign as MoS, External Affairs, in April 2010 following a slew of controversies including one related to the IPL Kochi franchise, made a comeback.

The Congress high command was said to have had reservations over Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury's induction as a minister over the criminal charges he faced, but eventually the Baharampur MP had to be accommodated.

Incidentally, the new Cabinet doesn't have a single minister from all of eastern India, Bihar eastwards. While Pranab Mukherjee moved on to Rashtrapati Bhavan, Subodh Kant Sahai from Jharkhand resigned on Saturday ahead of the reshuffle.

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