Cabinet rejig: Ashwani gets law, Khurshid external affairs

The cabinet reshuffle that is likely to be the last one before the 2014 general elections today saw Ashwini Kumar being sworn in as the new law minister.

NEW DELHI: In a mega reshuffle, 22 ministers, including seven of cabinet rank, were inducted into the Manmohan Singh government in what is seen as the last such exercise by UPA-II before the 2014 general elections.

Salman Khurshid was India's new external affairs minister as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Sunday effected a major revamp of his council of ministers, inducting 22 faces, including seven of cabinet rank.

Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi did not join the government - leaving the field open for him to play a larger role in the party.

Several portfolios were changed, some new faces introduced, some elevated to cabinet rank and at least one old hand - Shashi Tharoor - was back in what is possibly UPA II's last facelift - an exercise that jettisoned tainted ministers like Subodh Kant Sahay and roped veterans like Ambika Soni and S.M. Krishna back into the party organisation to gear up for the 2014 electoral battle.

In the reshuffle of the pack of ministers, Khurshid got external affairs while his previous ministry, law, went to Ashwani Kumar. Khurshid had served as minister of state (junior foreign minister) under prime minister P V Narasimha Rao in the nineties.

Pallam Raju was made human resource development (HRD) minister in place of Kapil Sibal, who was left only with communication and IT. Pallam Raju's minister of state in HRD was Tharoor, who quit had to resign as minister of state for external affairs in 2010 over a controversy regarding his alleged conflict of interests in the affairs of IPL Kochi cricket team that was subsequently disbanded.

The crucial railways ministry, which had long been with one-time ally Trinamool Congress, was given to P.K. Bansal.

M. Veerappa Moily was given charge of petroleum, while his previous responsibilities of corporate affairs and power were split - Sachin Pilot was elevated as minister of state with independent charge of corporate affairs and Jyotiraditya Scindia got independent charge of power.

Rawat was made water resources minister and Katoch, who belongs to an erstwhile royal family in Rajasthan, is union culture minister. Maken was elevated as housing and poverty alleviation minister and Dinsha Patel as mines minister.

S. Jaipal Reddy got science and technology and Kamal Nath got additional charge of parliamentary affairs besides urban development.

Amongst the ministers of state sworn in were Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari who got independent charge of information and broadcasting. Earlier with Soni, the ministry has been downgraded.

Telugu actor Chiranjeevi, whose Praja Rajyam Party (PRP) merged with the Congress, got independent charge of the tourism ministry. Tourism is one of the country's major foreign exchange earners.
List of changes in portfolios:

Ashwani Kumar - Law

M. Veerappa Moily - Petroleum

Salman Khursheed
- External affairs

Ajay Maken - Housing and poverty alleviation

M.M. Pallam Raju - Human resource development

K. Rahman Khan - Minority affairs

Dinsha Patel - Mines

Harish Rawat - Water resources

Chandresh Kumari Katoch - Culture

Ministers of State (Independent Charge)

Jyotiraditya Scindia - Power

Manish Tewari - Information and broadcasting

K. Chiranjeevi - Tourism

Sachin Pilot - Corporate affairs

President Pranab Mukherjee administered the oath of office to those inducted into the council of ministers.

Of the seven new cabinet ministers, two are new faces - former Rajya Sabha deputy chairman K. Rahman Khan and Lok Sabha MP Chandresh Kumari Katoch.

The remaining five - Ajay Maken, Dinsha Patel, M.M. Pallam Raju, Harish Rawat and Ashwani Kumar - were ministers of state. Maken and Patel had held independent charge.

Of the 15, two - Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari and Telugu actor-turned-politician K. Chiranjeevi - will hold independent charge.

The largest contingent of four is from Andhra Pradesh Kotla Jaya Surya Prakash Reddy, Sarve Satyanarayana, Porika Balram Naik and Killi Kruparani.

Three are from West Bengal: Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, Abu Hasem Khan Choudhury and Deepa Dasmunsi.

Two are from the northeast: Ranee Narah (Assam) and Ninong Ering (Arunachal Pradesh).

Kerala has two ministers: Shahsi Tharoor and Kodikunnil Suresh.

Maharashtra and Rajasthan have one minister each: Tariq Anwar and Lalchand Kataria.

With the exception of Tariq Anwar, who is from the NCP, the other 14 belong to the Congress.

List of ministers sworn in

Cabinet ministers:

* K. Rahman Khan   

* Dinsha J. Patel

* Ajay Maken

* M.M. Pallam Raju   

* Ashwini Kumar

* Harish Rawat

* Chandresh Kumari Katoch   

Rahman Khan and Katoch make their debut, the other five were previously ministers of state.

Ministers of State:

* Manish Tewari   

* K. Chiranjeevi

* Shashi Tharoor

* Kodikunnil Suresh

* Tariq Anwar   

* K. Jaya Surya Prakash Reddy

* Ranee Narah

* Adhir R. Chowdhury

* A.H. Khan Chowdhury

* Sarve Satyanarayana   

* Ninong Ering

* Deepa Dasmunshi

* Porika Balram Naik

* Kruparani Killi

* Lalchand Kataria

Manish Tiwari and K. Chiranjeevi will hold independent. Shashi Tharoor returns to the council after a gap of two years.

Barring Tariq Anwar, who belongs to the Nationalist Congress Party, the remaining 14 are from the Congress.

Ahead of the reshuffle, S.M. Krishna quit as external affairs minister, Ambika Soni stepped down as information and broadcasting minister, Subodh Kant Sahai resigned as tourism minister and Mukul Wasnik as social justice and empowerment minister.

The ministers of state who quit were Vincent Pala (water resources), Agatha Sangma (rural development) and Mahadeo Singh Khandela (tribal affairs). A Rashtrapati Bhavan communique Saturday evening said the resignations have been accepted.

Six ministers of the Trinamool Congress resigned last month when the party quit the ruling United Progressive Alliance and the government.

A vacancy was created when Vilasrao Deshmukh, who was minister for science and technology, died in August, while two cabinet berths vacated by DMK leaders A. Raja and Dayanidhi Maran in the wake of the 2G spectrum allocation issue have not yet been filled up.

The reshuffle comes at a time when the UPA government is buffeted by allegations of corruption and comes ahead of the winter session of parliament to be held November-December. (Agencies)