PM makes significant changes in key economic portfolios


New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Wednesday made significant changes in his ministerial council involving some key economic portfolios to send a signal that economy will continue to receive major thrust in overall governance.

Support TwoCircles

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Praful Patel has now been promoted to the rank of cabinet minister and given the portfolio of heavy industries and public enterprises while Shriprakash Jaiswal retains the coal portfolio with a cabinet rank.

Significantly, Murli Deora has been divested of his petroleum portfolio — which has now gone to Jaipal Reddy – and made minister for corporate affairs in a clear signal that the performance has not been quite appreciated.

With Salman Khursheed elevated to cabinet rank and handed the water resources portfolio, with additional charge of minority affairs as before, the prime minister had signalled the importance he attaches to the handling of portfolios that deal with national resources.

Reddy’s urban development has gone to Kamal Nath.

Accordingly, Kamal Nath’s road transport and highways portfolio has been given to C.P. Joshi, earlier the minister for rural development minister, a portfolio that has gone to Vilasrao Deshmukh, who had earlier handled heavy industries and was previously the Maharashtra chief minister.

With a signal that there could be another round of reshuffle, the prime minister has given Vayalar Ravi the additional charge of the high-profile civil aviation ministry, which was with Patel.

Kapil Sibal will continue to hold additional charge of communications and IT portfolio in addition to human resource development.

Sharad Pawar also continues to hold the agriculture portfolio. But he has been divested of civil supplies and public distribution system in line with his wishes but also given additional charge of food processing – held previously by Subodh Kant Sahay.

Pawar’s consumer affairs, food and public distribution portfolios have gone to K.V. Thomas with independent charge. Thomas was earlier minister of state with these portfolios.

Sahay has been given the more colourful portfolio of tourism, which was earlier handled by Kumari Selja. She is now minister for housing and urban poverty alleviation, with additional charge of culture.

Some added emphasis has been given to the country’s northeastern region, which has received considerable attention during the two tenures of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who himself represents Assam in the Rajya Sabha.

B.K. Handique, who was the minister of state for development of north-eastern region, is now a cabinet minister.

Among the other infrastructure and core sector portfolios, Beni Prasad Verma has been named the new steel minister, replacing Virbhadra Singh, who has been given micro, small and medium enterprises.