New Delhi: In a surprise statement, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said today’s reshuffle of his Council of Ministers is the last before the Lok Sabha polls in 2014 but two slots have been kept vacant for DMK as part of “coalition dharma”.
Talking to reporters after the swearing-in of the 11 ministers at Rashtrapati Bhavan, Singh said the reshuffle reflects a “balance necessary between various states, consideration of efficiency, consideration of continuity” in the government.
“As far as I am concerned this is the last reshuffle before we go to polls (in 2014),” he said, adding “This exercise is as comprehensive as possible.”
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Asked whether he anticipated problems after the reshuffle because of some ministers being unhappy, Singh said, “there are bound to be problems when there is some redistribution of portfolios. We have taken into account the best interests of the country.”
At the same time, he said two ministerial slots have been kept vacant for DMK. “It is part of our coalition dharma...I hope their decision will be coming soon,” the Prime Minister said.
DMK, which lost two ministerial berths due to resignation of A Raja and Dayanidhi Maran in the wake of allegations against them in the 2G scam, is expected to decide on filling those slots during its general council meeting on 23 July.
When pointed out that the government was facing problems and whether he was hopeful of overcoming these, Singh said, “definitely, there is no doubt.”
Asked about shifting of controversial Jairam Ramesh from environment ministry to rural development although with a promotion, Singh said he has been “given more extensive responsibility. His experience will be better utilized in this portfolio.”
Queried why Rahul Gandhi was still not included in the Council of Ministers, the Prime Minister said, “I requested him several times to join the Cabinet but he has said he has responsibilities in the organization.”
On Gandhi’s recent ‘padyatra´, he said he had undertaken it to get to know the needs of the farmers, who are the “most important people in terms of their contribution to national growth and agricultural production. Their contribution is enormous.”
He said Rahul Gandhi was making effort towards “better understanding of farmers’ problems.”