Cabinet reshuffle: Manmohan Singh inducts 8 ministers, anoints Mallikarjun Kharge Railways Minister

Written by Agencies | New Delhi | Updated: Jun 18 2013, 00:53am hrs
Manmohan SinghIn a small Cabinet reshuffle, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's council of ministers was expanded today with an eye on 2014 general elections.
In perhaps the last Cabinet reshuffle and expansion of the Union Council of Ministers, Mallikarjun Kharge was today made the Railways Minister as eight more were inducted with veterans Oscar Fernandes and Sis Ram Ola making a comeback.

After yesterday's reshuffle in the party, senior woman leader from election-bound Rajasthan Girija Vyas and K S Rao from Andhra Pradesh were brought in as Cabinet Ministers in today's exercise which was an all-Congress affair.

Three new faces - Santosh Chowdhury, J D Seelam and E N S Nachiappan - were made Ministers of State along with veteran Maharashtra leader Manikrao Gavit.

With the fresh inductions, the strength of the Union Council of Ministers has gone up to 77.

The oath of office and secrecy to the new ministers was administered by President Pranab Mukherjee at a ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan attended by Vice President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and Union ministers among others.

71-year-old Kharge, who missed out in the Chief Ministerial race in Karnataka last month, has been compensated with the heavyweight Railway portfolio after being shifted from Labour and Employment.

Labour has now been given to Ola, the 86-year-old Jat leader from Rajasthan who gets back the same portfolio he had held in the UPA-I.

Fernandes, who had also been Labour Minister and Sports and Youth Affairs Minister in UPA-I, got Road and Highways Ministry, succeeding C P Joshi who resigned over the weekend.

Girija Vyas got Housing, Urban Development and Poverty Alleviation, a portfolio held by Ajay Maken who also had quit on Saturday to work for the party.

K S Rao (69), a five-time MP from coastal Andhra Pradesh who nearly quit Lok Sabha after being ignored in the Cabinet expansion last year, was given the Textiles portfolio.

Among new Ministers of State, Seelam, a former IAS officer, is a dalit face from Andhra Pradesh. He got Finance.

Gavit, 78-year-old tribal leader from Maharashtra and a nine-time MP, has been allotted Social Justice and Empowerment portfolio.

Santosh Chowdhury, a dalit from Hoshiarpur in Punjab, was given Health & Family Welfare Ministry.

Nachiappan, a member of the JPC on 2G scam and a member of the panel of the presiding officers in the Rajya Sabha, was given Commerce and Industry.

The reshuffle was expected for some time after the exit of DMK's six ministers and resignation of Pawan Kumar Bansal and Ashwani Kumar.

Sonia's trusted aide makes comeback to govt

Known as a man for all seasons, veteran Congress leader Oscar Fernandes has handled tricky negotiations with north-east rebels, government and party matters, and fluid movements of Kuchipudi dance form with equal ease.

Considered a trusted aide of Congress President Sonia Gandhi, 72-year-old Fernandes makes a comeback to the government - this time as Cabinet Minister - after having handled key responsibilities, including the head of the party's central election committee.

A five-term Lok Sabha MP from Udupi in Karnatka, Fernandes was nominated to the Rajya Sabha by the Congress after he lost the 1999 Lok Sabha elections. He is now into his third term in the Upper House.

"Brother Oscar", as he is popularly known, had given his own touch to the talks with the NSCN leaders, beginning the meetings with prayers in which all present participate.

He was a Union Minister from 2004-2009, holding a number of portfolios like Statistics and Programme Implementation, Overseas Indian Affairs, Youth and Sports Affairs and Labour and Employment.

Fernandes was also a close confidant of former Prime Minister late Rajiv Gandhi.

Son of a school teacher, Fernandes, who was the KPCC president for two terms, is well-liked among party men and known to burn the midnight oil in which ever job he is entrusted with.

Fernandes is also a trained performer of traditional dance forms Kuchipudi and Yakshagana.