M A I N   N E W S

No pressure on Iran issue, says PM
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 29
While Congress President Sonia Gandhi hinted at the possibility of some changes in the party organisation in the light of today’s Cabinet expansion, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh parried all questions on the appointment of a full-fledged External Affairs Minister.

Speaking to presspersons after the swearing-in ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan today, Mrs Gandhi said some changes in the party set-up would be undertaken “very soon’, possibly in the next few days.

This reshuffle has become necessary now that Mrs Ambika Soni, AICC General Secretary and chairperson of the party’s media department, has been inducted into the Cabinet. Similarly, long-time party spokesperson Anand Sharma has been given a ministerial berth. Both will have to be replaced.

Mrs Soni will be required to relinquish the general secretary’s post but there is no bar on her continuing as a member of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) as several senior leaders, including Pranab Mukherjee, Shivraj Patil and Arjun Singh, are both ministers and members of the party’s apex decision-making body.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was, however, circumspect when queried about a new Foreign Affairs Minister, saying a decision on this would be taken in due course. He disagreed with presspersons that keeping the portfolio could prove to be an extra burden on him, stating, “A Prime Minister had to get involved in foreign policy making.” He did not rule out the possibility of another Cabinet reshuffle on the plea that there was never any finality on such issues but ruled out any immediate changes.

Dr Singh also denied that there was any pressure on India on Iran’s nuclear issue and said categorically that the Indian position would reflect its national interest. “We will do what should be rightfully done by the country”, he said. He also rejected the demand for the recall of American Ambassador David Mulford in the light of his recent controversial remarks.

“To err is human,” is all that the Prime Minister had to say in this regard.

As for the constant objections raised by the Left parties, the latest being on FDI in the retail sector, the Prime Minister said they would satisfy them that the government was working in national interest. He described the Left criticism as “healthy pressure”, saying life would not be worth anything without a bit of pressure.

In her remarks on the Cabinet reshuffle, Mrs Gandhi admitted that some states like Chhattisgarh had not been given representation but put this down to constraints of coalition politics. She also defended the inclusion of a large number of nominees from Andhra Pradesh, saying the state had returned the maximum number of MPs to the Lok Sabha in the last election.

As for induction of younger people like Jyotiraditya Scindia and Naveen Jindal into the government, Mrs Gandhi was very forthright. “They will have to wait,” she said, adding that they had been elected to Parliament only recently and they would have to first work for the party before they were given any ministerial berths.

Pointing to Ambika Soni, Anand Sharma and Ajay Maken, she said, they had all been made ministers only after they had put in several years in the party organisation. 

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