PM expands his council of ministers, inducts 59

Written by Political Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: May 28 2009, 08:20am hrs
New cabinet ministers
Eleven days after it convincingly emerged victorious at the hustings, the Congress-led UPA finally has a council of ministers in place. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday announced the much-awaited expansion to a full team of 78 members, inducting among others three former chief ministers-Vilasrao Deshmukh, Virbhadra Singh and Farooq Abdullah-and new entrants Mallikarjun Kharge and MK Alagiri at Cabinet rank.

Besides seniority in the party, it is evident that experience and capability played a large part in deciding the 33 Cabinet ministers that make up the Prime Ministers core team. As expected, the DMK has three Cabinet berths: A Raja, who is likely to get IT & telecom; Dayanidhi Maran, tipped to get textiles; and MK Alagiri, who may get chemicals & fertilisers. NC leader Farooq Abdullah, who was piqued at being left out during the first ministerial announcements last Friday, is being tipped for the tourism portfolio.

Portfolios for the new ministers are scheduled to be announced on Thursday. But Veerappa Moily is widely expected to get surface transport, Ambika Soni health, Kapil Sibal law or HRD, CP Joshi rural development and Kamal Nath commerce.

The council of ministers, which will include 14 Cabinet ministers, seven ministers of state with independent charge and 38 ministers of state, will be sworn in on Thursday. Nineteen ministers were earlier sworn in along with Prime Minister Singh last week. Of the 59 to be inducted on Thursday, 42 belong to the Congress, taking the total number of ministers from the party to 60, including the Prime Minister.

Both Virbhadra Singh and Vilasrao Deshmukh are slated to get important ministries, given their seniority in the party. The announcement makes it clear now that Arjun Singh, Sis Ram Ola, HR Bhardwaj and Saifuddin Soz have been dropped.

Pawan Kumar Bansal, Subodh Kant Sahay, GK Vasan and Selja have been promoted as Cabinet ministers and will be colleagues of Mukul Wasnik and Kantilal Bhuria. Bansal, who handled banking & insurance in the finance ministry, is likely to be given company affairs. Those promoted from MoS rank and given independent charge included Sri Prakash Jaiswal, Prithviraj Chavan, Dinsha Patel and Jairam Ramesh. NCP leader Praful Patel, however, remains MoS with independent charge.

Prominent among the junior ministers to be sworn in are: Shashi Tharoor, a former UN diplomat who won from Thiruvananthapuram; Sachin Pilot; Praneet Kaur, wife of former Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh; and Agatha Sangma, daughter of former Lok Sabha Speaker PA Sangma.

Fridays ceremony will see the induction of six Trinamool Congress MPs, four from the DMK and one from the Muslim League. Former ministers of state who do not find a place in the new government are Ashwini Kumar, Rao Inderjit Singh and Santosh Bagrodia (all Congress).