Prime Minister expanded Council of Ministers; Portfolios distributed

New Delhi, May 29: Expanding his six-day-old Council of Ministers by inducting 59 ministers, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made Anand Sharma the Commerce Minister and allocated the portfolio of HRD to Kapil Sibal, Law to M Veerappa Moily and Road Transport and Highways to Kamal Nath.

With this induction, the size of Council of Ministers went up to 79- 34 Cabinet Ministers, 7 Ministers of State with Independent Charge and 38 Ministers of State.

As he completed the exercise of firming up his Council of Ministers 12 days after UPA returned to power, the Prime Minister sprang surprises by giving Shipping to G K Vasan, Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises to Vilasrao Deshmukh and steel to Virbhadra Singh.

Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad was made Health and Family Welfare Minister while National Conference President Farooq Abdullah got New and Renewable Energy.

Eight of the Cabinet Ministers retained the portfolios they had in the previous government but Ambika Soni was moved from Tourism and Culture to Information and Broadcasting and Meira Kumar shifted from Social Justice and Empowerment to Water Resources.

New entrants Mukul Wasnik, a dalit leader, got Social Justice and Empowerment, Mallikarjun Kharge Labour and Employment, B K Handique Minister for Mines and Development of North Eastern Region, C P Joshi Rural Development and Panchayati Raj and Kantilal Bhuria Tribal Affairs.

Among the Ministers of State with independent charge, Salman Khursheed gets Corporate Affairs and Minority Affairs. Prithviraj Chavan, will be MoS (Independent charge) of Earth Sciences and a Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Personnel. Jairam Ramesh will be MoS (Independent charge) Environment and Forests while Krishna Tirath will be at Women and Child Development.

Shashi Tharoor will be a Minister of State in External Affairs along with Preneet Kaur while young Agatha Sangma will be in the Rural Development Ministry. Ajay Maken will be a Minister of State at Home.

New ministers raring to go, some speak of continuity

Raring to go, Ministers who were given new portfolios in the second round of allocation in Monday night spoke of working on a roadmap to push through reforms in sectors coming under their respective departments.

Ministers who retained their portfolios they held in the UPA government’s first term stressed on the need for continuity.

Describing his new assignment as challenging, the new Law and Justice Minister Veerappa Moily said there was a scope for a lot of reforms in judiciary and the need to “jettison” some laws which are really detrimental to the development and governance.

“Law making is an important process including for combating terrorism, communalism and many other things,” said Moily, a lawyer turned politician.

Another lawyer-turned politician Kapil Sibal, who was shifted to the Humna Resources Development Ministry from Science and Technology, said his ministry lends itself to the future of the country and there was enormous opportunities to tap.

“The HRD ministry has got an enormous expanse touching every home of India and truly represents a way forward for India and to get a roadmap which is job oriented,” said Sibal.

Praful Patel, who retained Civil Aviation ministry as Minister of State for Independent charge, said passenger safety will continue to get top priority. Patel also said infrastructure will be a “big focus” of the UPA government in its second term.