Thursday, January 30, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Jaitley, Thakur get Cabinet berth
Mahajan, Uma Bharti, Vasundhara drafted for party work
T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee makes a point to the newly inducted Union Ministers
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee makes a point to the newly inducted Union Ministers, as the President, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, looks on after the swearing-in ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan on Wednesday. — Tribune photo Mukesh Aggarwal

(From Left) Indian President A.P.J Abdul Kalam, new cabinet ministers C. P. Thakur and Bhavnaben Devrajbahi Chikalia stand beside Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee after a cabinet revamp in New Delhi on Wednesday. 
— Reuters photo 

New Delhi, January 29
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee carried out an extensive BJP-centric expansion by inducting two Cabinet ministers, one Minister of State with independent charge and five Ministers of State in his jumbo Council of Ministers here this evening.

The exercise undertaken after intense consultations is intended to perk up the functioning of the government and galvanise the BJP for the upcoming Assembly elections in nine states and the 2004 General Elections.

As expected BJP chief spokesperson Arun Jaitley and Bihar’s C.P. Thakur, who had to make an unceremonious exit, were re-inducted as Cabinet ministers. Clearly, Mr Jaitley’s presence in the government is aimed at shoring up its image and that of Mr Thakur due to the party’s compulsions and to appease the powerful Bhumihar lobby in Bihar.

There has been a calculated attempt to induct youthful persons with an unswerving RSS background as well as to provide representation to women. Expectedly Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh have secured representation in Vajpayee’s Council of Ministers the strength of which has risen to 77.

This is evidenced by Sangapriya Gautam being made a Minister of State with independent charge. The five ministers of state are Chatrapal Singh (UP), Dilip Singh Judev (Chattisgarh), Jas Kaur Meena (Rajasthan) and Dilip Kumar Mansukhlal Gandhi and Bhavanabehn Chikalia (both Gujarat).

The BJP’s stunning victory in the Assembly elections in Gujarat in December has compelled the party’s leadership to redraw its strategies in seeking the mandate of the people to govern in the states where Assembly elections are due in February and later this year.

All ministers were administered the oath of office and secrecy by President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

The return of Union Communications and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pramod Mahajan to the party organisation was not entirely unexpected. Having been associated with Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani’s rath yatra and the Shiv Sena-BJP government in Maharashtra in the past, Mr Mahajan does not view the switch as a demotion. He said the focus was on working for the party and extending the party’s rule at the Centre by another five years from 2004 to 2009.

Mr Advani said the reshuffle had been carried out with the main objective of winning the Assembly elections. Key ministers are being drafted for party work with an eye on the elections. Similarly, some party functionaries are being drafted in the Union Government.

All those entrusted with party work — Uma Bharti (Madhya Pradesh), Vasundhara Raje Scindia (Rajasthan) and Raman Singh (Chhattisgarh) — tendered their resignations to the Prime Minister. Union Law Minister and former BJP President Jana Krishnamurthy bid adieu to the government after a brief stint. Ministers of State Rita Verma and Nikhil Chaudhary also submitted their resignations.

There was speculation that Mr Krishnamurthy might be accommodated in a gubernatorial assignment but he appears to be reluctant after having had to face the ignominy of first being dumped as the BJP President and now as a Cabinet minister.

An eminent lawyer, Mr Jaitley has been articulating the government's and party’s views and strategically backed Narendra Modi to the hilt in the Gujarat Assembly elections. Dr Thakur is a Dr B.C. Roy Award winner and is Professor Emeritus of the Patna Medical College. He had earlier held the health portfolio in the BJP-led NDA government.

Mr Gautam is an old war horse of the BJP and his presence in the Union Council of Ministers was long awaited. Ms Chikhalia is a four-time Lok Sabha MP from Junagarh in Gujarat. With a strong RSS background, Mr Dilip Singh Judev came into prominence as an anti-conversion activist and has been organising public programmes to bring back those who embraced other religions.

The new incumbents 

Union Council of Ministers

Arun Jaitley    Law and Commerce and Industry
C P Thakur    Northeastern Affairs & SSI
Arun Shourie    Disinvestment, Communication and IT
Sushma Swaraj    Health, Family Welfare & Parliamentary Affairs
Shatrughan Sinha    Shipping
Karia Munda    Coal
Sanga Priya Gautam    Agro Industries (independent charge)
Ravi Shankar Prasad
(Independent charge)
  Information and Broadcasting
Ramesh Bias    Mines (independent charge) 

Ministers of State

Chatrapal Singh    Chemicals and Fertilisers
Dilip Singh Judeo    Environment and Forests
D. K. M. Gandhi    Shipping
Bhavnaben Chikalia    Parliamentary Affairs, Tourism & Culture
Jaskaur Meena    Human Resources Development
Vinod Khanna    External Affairs 
Vidya Sagar Rao    Commerce and Industry
Ashok Pradhan    HRD
Vallabhbhai Kathiria    Health and Family Welfare
Haren Pathak    Home
O Rajagopal    Defence
Vijay Goel    Parliamentary Affairs and Labour
Santosh Gangwar    Petroleum



Krishnamurthi was offered other portfolios: PM
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 29 
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee today clarified that he had offered various other portfolios to Mr Jana Krishnamurthi but he had (Jana Krishnamurthi) insisted on retaining the Law and Justice Ministry and preferred to resign. 

Talking to newspersons after the swearing-in ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, Mr Vajpayee said, ‘‘I want to make one thing clear, Mr Jana Krishnamurthi was offered other portfolios but he did not want anything other than the Law portfolio and, therefore, resigned from the Council of Ministers. 

The Prime Minister also said that he was prepared to undertake another reshuffle if the NDA allies so desired. 

Mr Vajpayee said Mr Pramod Mahajan had been moved out of the government for strengthening the party keeping in view the Assembly elections this year and the Lok Sabha poll next year. 


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