SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI



THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Cabinet expansion with eye on economic reforms
New Delhi, January 29
In undertaking a large expansion of his Cabinet, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has ensured that economic reforms get an added push and major irritants impeding growth are tackled effectively along with providing proper representation to the states.

Mr Ashwani Kumar being sworn in as Minister of State by President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on Sunday. Mr Ashwani Kumar being sworn in as Minister of State by President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on Sunday.
 — UNI photo

NTR’s daughter given berth to weaken TDP
Hyderabad, January 29
In a quirk of politics, daughter of Telugu Desam founder late N T Rama Rao is now a Cabinet member of the Congress government.




EARLIER STORIES

 

Now, cows land Lalu in trouble
Patna, January 29
Things have been worsening day by day for the already beleaguered RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav ever since his party’s rout in October-November poll.

USA to dominate Defexpo-06
New Delhi, January 29
India seems to have become the favoured hunting ground for the world’s biggest armament companies as they make a beeline for the Defexpo-06, which will begin here on Tuesday.

BSF men open fire in temple
Guwahati, January 29 BSF personnel today opened fire inside the famous Kamakhya temple injuring several people, including three priests, after a scuffle with temple officials, the police said.

Amitabh Bachchan Amitabh likely to undergo hernia surgery
Mumbai, January 29
Superstar Amitabh Bachchan is likely to undergo another surgery, this time for hernia, sources said. In November, the actor had undergone a major surgery at a city hospital for diverticulum in the small intestine that had ruptured.



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Cabinet expansion with eye on economic reforms
T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi gestures as she speaks to Mrs Gursharan Kaur, wife of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on Sunday.
UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi gestures as she speaks to Mrs Gursharan Kaur, wife of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on Sunday.
— AFP photo

Newly inducted Minister of State Pawan Kumar Bansal greets President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam after taking the oath on Sunday.
Newly inducted Minister of State Pawan Kumar Bansal greets President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam after taking the oath on Sunday.
— UNI photo

New Delhi, January 29
In undertaking a large expansion of his Cabinet, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has ensured that economic reforms get an added push and major irritants impeding growth are tackled effectively along with providing proper representation to the states.

Loyalty has also played its part in the exercise of appointing 22 new ministers, predominantly from the Congress with the exception of JMM’s Shibu Soren who gets back the Coal Portfolio as expected.

Even as the Prime Minister has refrained from tinkering with the key portfolios of Defence, Finance, Home and External Affairs, Dr Singh has been highly selective in bringing in the political old guard as evidenced in former Maharashtra Chief Ministers Sushil Kumar Shinde and A.R. Antulay, Congress veteran from Mumbai Murli Deora, and Kerala’s Vyalar Ravi.

Dr Singh has kept the External Affairs Ministry with himself as there are important visits of French President Jacques Chirac and US President George W. Bush round the corner.

After the swearing in ceremony, the Prime Minister told mediapersons: “The Ministry of External Affairs can wait. There is still some more time.”

Having waited in the wings, Jairam Ramesh finds a berth in the Union Council of Ministers as a Minister of State. A secretary in the economic affairs cell of the Congress party and Rajya Sabha MP from Andhra Pradesh, Ramesh is also a member of the National Advisory Council and has played a part in drafting the common minimum programme of the UPA government.

Ramesh has been actively involved in the economic liberalisation programme since 1991.

Mr Deora, who will have to be elected to Parliament, is a widely travelled politician, with friends in high places internationally, and has contributed in framing the national energy policy in the mid 1970s.

By making him a Cabinet Minister in charge of the Petroleum Ministry, the Prime Minister has made it clear that the key portfolio requires an independent minister but one who can network globally for India’s energy security.

Mani Shankar Aiyar, who was holding additional charge of Petroleum and Natural Gas before the expansion-cum-reshuffle, will now oversee the Panchayati Raj Ministry along with Youth Affairs and Sports.

The overbearing view in the Congress is that the Panchayati Raj requires full-time attention of a senior minister, which assumes importance in the wake of some crucial Assembly elections in the next few months.

Mr Shinde, who has resigned as Governor of Andhra Pradesh, will deal with the Power Portfolio. His induction to the Union Government is not unexpected as he had expressed a desire to return to active politics.

The Power Ministry requires an innovative political head and there have been complaints that it is one of the most neglected ministries in the UPA government.

This assumes significance considering the electricity shortfall in the country. The post fell vacant after the sudden death of P.M. Sayeed last year.

He will get into the thick of things in framing a new electricity policy and ensuring investment flows to the industry.

Mr Antulay becomes the first minister at the Centre to oversee Minority Affairs. An old warhorse from Maharashtra, he has fought quite some battles and had been close to the late Indira Gandhi.

The Tourism Portfolio has gone to Ambika Sonia, a confidant of Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

Ms Soni has a challenge on her hands as the tourism industry’s potential has sadly remained unrealised in the country.

The Prime Minister stressed there is a lot of talent in the Cabinet expansion undertaken by him this afternoon. At the same time, there had been intense speculation that P. Chidambaram might be shifted out of Finance and replaced by C. Rangarajan, the former Reserve Bank Governor.

But that was not to be with the presentation of the Budget scheduled towards the end of February. There are indications of another expansion-cum-reshuffle at the end of the Budget session of Parliament.

Greater representation has been given to Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh.

Interestingly, late Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N.T. Rama Rao’s daughter D. Prandareswari has been drafted as a Minister of State and will be HRD Minister Arjun Singh’s junior.

She came into the limelight when she quit her father’s Telugu Desam party and was elected to the Lok Sabha in 2004 on a Congress ticket.

She is member of the Parliament’s committee on food, consumer affairs and public distribution.

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NTR’s daughter given berth to weaken TDP
Ramesh Kandula
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, January 29
In a quirk of politics, daughter of Telugu Desam founder late N T Rama Rao is now a Cabinet member of the Congress government.

D Purandareswari, NTR’s daughter and TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu’s sister-in-law, has been inducted into the Central Cabinet as a Minister of State in Human Resources Department in today’s reshuffle.

NTR was, and still is, seen as a symbol of anti-Congressism in Andhra Pradesh and Naidu claims to carry this legacy forward.

The first-time MP from Bapatla, she joined the Congress just before last Parliamentary elections, along with her husband D Venkateswara Rao. Till then, the 46-year-old graduate scrupulously avoided politics and public life like the rest of the family members.

It was when Rao, her husband, was completely marginalised in the party by Chandrababu Naidu that Purandareswari took a plunge into politics. Feeling betrayed by Naidu, who legitimised his revolt against NTR through the unstinted support of Rao, the couple joined the Congress to take on the new leadership of the TDP.

Purandareswari contested against Telugu film producer and her relative D Ramanaidu of the TDP and defeated him in her debut election, while her husband Rao, earlier a Minister in the NTR cabinet, also made it to the state Assembly.

Despite the close family ties with a rival party, she has never allowed this baggage to affect her present status in the Congress. In fact, within a short time, the daughter of NTR has earned a name for herself as a serious politician, who means business.

“I never came into public life with any expectations. I am happy that the party reposed its faith in me, and I will strive to do my best,” she said, after taking the oath.

Observers feel that her selection was aided, among other factors, by the intention of the Congress leadership to create confusion in the TDP ranks and further weaken the only opposition in the state.

Meanwhile, the state has four more ministers, if Jairam Ramesh, who was elected to the Rajya Sabha from Andhra, is also taken into consideration. T Subbarami Reddy, a Rajya Sabha Member, and M Mangapati Pallamraju, MP from Kakinada, have also been inducted in today’s reshuffle.

With the latest addition, Andhra Pradesh’s share in the Union Cabinet has shot up to 10 members, including Jaipal Reddy, Renuka Chowdary, Panabaka Lakshmi and D Narayana Rao.

Out of these, two ministers, K Chandrasekhar Rao and A Narendra, belong to a coalition partner Telangana Rashtra Samithi.

The choice of selection, however, has angered CWC member and Peddapalli MP G Venkataswamy, who accused the party leadership of meting out injustice to Telangana. “Telangana has been denied its rightful share in the reshuffle,” the veteran Congress leader, who is a ministerial aspirant, fumed.

The deputy leader of the Congress in Parliament questioned as to how states like Maharashtra, where coalitions were running the government, had three to four ministries in the reshuffle, while Andhra Pradesh which had made the Congress-led government at the Centre failed to get as many ministries.

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Now, cows land Lalu in trouble
Tribune News service

Patna, January 29
Things have been worsening day by day for the already beleaguered RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav ever since his party’s rout in October-November poll.

While Mr Lalu Prasad and his wife, former Chief Minister Rabri Devi, are still to find out an auspicious day to vacate the official residence of the Chief Minister at 1 Aney Marg, the bungalow, on the contrary, is proving to be inauspicious for them.

The Patna High Court has sought status report from Advocate-General P.K. Sahi whether Mr Lalu Prasad and Ms Rabri Devi had been earning commercial profits through the sale of milk and other products by rearing hundreds of cows in the cowsheds put up at 1 Aney marg during the past 15 years. The report will have to be submitted by March 6.

The order came following the hearing of a PIL filed by social activist Arvind Kumar Sinha. The complainant has sought a court directive restraining the use of residential premises allotted to ministers, officers and other public servants for profits.

Patna High Court Chief Justice J.N. Bhatt and Justice R.N. Prasad expressed unhappiness over the use of residential premises provided by the government for commercial purposes.

On the pretext of Kharmas (inauspicious month), Mr Lalu Prasad and Ms Rabri Devi have been delaying the vacating of 1 Aney Marg premises. Their prime concern apparently was how to accommodate over 200 cows and two horses at the new residence at 10 Circular Road as it was smaller in size than 1 Aney Marg.

Mr Lalu Prasad has himself earlier admitted to selling milk and other products.

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USA to dominate Defexpo-06
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 29
India seems to have become the favoured hunting ground for the world’s biggest armament companies as they make a beeline for the Defexpo-06, which will begin here on Tuesday. Drawn by India’s emergence as one of the largest buyers of hi-tech weaponry, the fourth edition of Defexpo India, which will be inaugurated by Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee, will be dominated by defence majors from the USA.

Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing, Bell Helicopters, DCN, Thales, Rolls Royce, Israel Aircraft Industries, Elbit and Rosoboronexport are among the more than 220 companies from 30 countries that will participate in the four-day event.

Defexpo could play a key role in helping forge partnerships, specially as India’s defence market has been opened up recently and the exhibition provides a major opportunity to display equipment to the Indian private manufacturers.

This year’s edition of Defexpo, a biennial event first organised in 1999, marks a growth of 40 per cent in participants over 2004. The total number now is 410, including 212 foreign and 198 Indian companies.

Defexpo 2006 will also be attended by more than 45 official delegations from 40 countries, including 10 teams led by ministers.

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BSF men open fire in temple

Guwahati, January 29
BSF personnel today opened fire inside the famous Kamakhya temple injuring several people, including three priests, after a scuffle with temple officials, the police said.

The BSF men, when asked to stand in a queue for performing puja, went berserk and started beating up the priests and pilgrims, they said. The situation went out of control when the security personnel started firing, the police said. At least four persons, including three priests, were injured in the incident.

The BSF men then destroyed several shops around the temple premises.

One of the BSF personnel was injured. He was admitted to the Guwahati Neurological Research Centre here, the SSP said. — PTI

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Amitabh likely to undergo hernia surgery

Mumbai, January 29
Superstar Amitabh Bachchan is likely to undergo another surgery, this time for hernia, sources said.

In November, the actor had undergone a major surgery at a city hospital for diverticulum in the small intestine that had ruptured.

He was discharged from the hospital on December 17 and was expected to resume work within a month but sources now say Bachchan would resume work in April at the earliest.

The delay in recovery has been attributed to presence of scar tissue in his abdomen from an earlier surgery in July 1982 after an accident during shooting of the film ‘Coolie’.

Sources said doctors noticed the hernia during the November operation.

Sources said doctors would have to wait for at least three months from the time of last surgery.

When contacted, Dr P Jagannath, who had led the team of doctors in operating upon Bachchan in November, said he was unaware of any impending surgery on the superstar. — PTI

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