Kharge made Railways Minister, eight inducted as Ministers
NEW DELHI, June 17: In perhaps the last reshuffle and expansion of the Union Council of Ministers, Mallikarjun Kharge was made the Railways Minister as eight more were inducted with veterans Sis Ram Ola and Oscar Fernandes making a comeback.
After Sunday’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 Monday’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.
Nitish 'secular', Rahul Gandhi 'natural leader': PM
NEW DELHI, June 17: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday called Nitish Kumar "a secular leader" reaffirming the possiblity of a Congress-Janata Dal United alliance, after JD(U) parted ways with BJP on Sunday.
"In politics there are no permanent friends or enemies. We decide as the situation evolves," he said at Rashtrapati Bhawan where eight new minsters were inducted into the Cabinet.
Talking to reporters at the event Prime Minister Singh also called Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi "a natural leader" addressing speculation of him being UPA's prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
"I have always said, as far as I am concerned, I would be very happy to see Rahul step into my shoes," he said.
"Rahul Gandhi is a national leader. He has all the right qualities that a leader should have."
Addressing chances of Congress's third term in power he said, "we will have a third go as UPA and the people will again repose their faith in us."