New Delhi: Ending nearly a fortnight of suspense, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) cabinet under the leadership of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh finally took shape on Thursday.
While eight of the 27 cabinet ministers retained their portfolios, Singh sought to give a fresh impetus to the ministries of human resource development (HRD), law and road transport and highways by inducting Kapil Sibal, M. Veerappa Moily and Kamal Nath as the new cabinet ministers, respectively. Sibal and Nath would have to start long-pending education reforms as well as the languishing national highways programme.
Also Read Complete list of PM’s men (PDF)
Anand Sharma takes charge of the commerce ministry at a time when the country is preparing for the conclusion of global trade talks. Jairam Ramesh becomes minister of state with independent charge for environment ahead of climate change talks slated for December in Denmark.
Key cabinet ministers who retained their portfolios are Jaipal Reddy (urban development), Sushil Kumar Shinde (power), Vayalar Ravi (overseas Indian affairs), A. Raja (communications and information technology), Murli Deora (petroleum and natural gas), Kumari Selja (housing and urban poverty alleviation), Subodh Kant Sahay (food processing industries) and M.S. Gill (youth affairs and sports).
Vilasrao Deshmukh, who was removed as chief minister of Maharashtra after the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai, has got heavy industries and public enterprise and former Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh the ministry of steel. Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad was given health and family welfare.
Moily was given charge of law ministry, while another former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah was allocated the ministry of new and renewable energy. Debutant C.P. Joshi from Rajasthan was given the portfolio of rural development and panchayati raj.
Another first-timer, Shashi Tharoor, was appointed minister of state (MoS) in the external affairs ministry, while Sachin Pilot will take charge as an MoS in the communications and information technology ministry and Agatha Sangma as his counterpart in the rural development ministry.
Jyotiraditya Scindia will now move to the commerce ministry as MoS.
Dayanidhi Maran from Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam got textiles and B.K. Handique from Assam was made minister of mines as well as the development of north-eastern region. Among those with independent charge, Praful Patel retains civil aviation. Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan, too retained his post as MoS in the Prime Minister’s Office and got additional charge as an MoS for science and technology, ministry of earth as well parliamentary affairs, among others. Salman Khurshid was made MoS with independent charge of corporate affairs, along with minority affairs.
The portfolio announcements came late in the evening, well after the conclusion of the second round of cabinet expansion. On Thursday, 14 cabinet ministers, seven ministers with independent charge and 38 ministers of state were sworn in, while 19 cabinet ministers were sworn in on 22 May. Of the 59 ministers inducted on Thursday, 42 are from the Congress, taking the total number of ministers from the party to 60, including the Prime Minister.
Immediately after the Thursday swearing-in ceremony, the Prime Minister was in discussions with Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who was accompanied by her political secretary, Ahmed Patel.
According to a senior Congress leader who did not want to be identified, the delay in allocating portfolios was due to the party leadership’s “dilemma of satisfying regional, religious and community aspirations while distributing portfolios”.
The Opposition, meanwhile, has attacked the government for the delay. “Compromising and appeasing skills are at work and plum posts are being bargained with the allies and also among the Congress leaders. We are watching things closely and would respond at an appropriate time,” said Bharatiya Janata Party vice- president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said a few hours before the portfolios were allocated.
Liz Mathew, Santosh K. Joy, Rahul Chandran, Pallavi Singh, K.P. Narayana Kumar and PTI contributed to this story.