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UPA II’s new look team gets down to work

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New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s new look team got down to work on October 29 with new Mini-sters taking charge and old ones relinquishing responsibilities after a mega revamp of the council of ministers that saw 17 new faces and many key Ministries changing hands.

The major shake-up of the government on October 28, possibly the last one before the 2014 general elections, saw Salman Khurshid taking over as India’s new Foreign Minister, Pawan Kumar Bansal becoming the new man at the helm of the Railways Ministry, M. Veer-appa Moily being given Petroleum and M.M. Pallam Raju appointed Human Resource Develop-ment Minister.

Soon after taking charge of his Ministry, Moily said he would work to turn the challenges faced by the oil sector into opportunities.

“Average worldwide oil consumption is 14 barrels per person per year, while in developing countries it is three barrels per person per year. In India, the picture is not so happy, with a consumption of 1.2 barrels per person per year. This is a matter of concern,” he said.

S. Jaipal Reddy got Science and Technology, but reports suggested that he was unhappy over his removal from the Oil Ministry. Kamal Nath got additional charge of Parlia-mentary Affairs besides Urban Development.

Amongst the Ministers of State sworn in were Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari, who got independent charge of Information and Broad-casting. Earlier with Ambika Soni, the Ministry has been downgraded.

Jyotiraditya Scindia took over as the new Minister of State with independent charge of the Power Ministry.

“It is a daunting challenge, and I look forward to the support and guidance of Ministry officials and colleagues in other departments,” the young MP from Madhya Pradesh told reporters soon after.

Describing the power sector as “extremely strategic and important” for the nation’s economy, Scindia said: “It is a very important Ministry and it is a very big challenge, a very big charge.”

The rejig exercise that sought to jettison perception of passivity in governance comes just ahead of two critical assembly elections in Hima-chal Pradesh and Gujarat.

“It is a combination of youth and experience,” Manmohan Singh said on October 28 after   the ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan, where President Pranab Mukherjee administered the oath of office.

“The road ahead is full of challenges,” he said, expressing hope that this was the last such exercise before his UPA-II government heads for elections.

Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi did not join  the government — leaving  the field open for him to play a larger role in the party.

Seventeen new faces were inducted on October 28 of which two Ministers were of Cabinet rank.

Of the seven new Ministers sworn in with Cabinet rank, two are debutants — former Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairperson K. Rahman Khan and Congress MP Chandresh Kumari Katoch. The other five — Ajay Maken, M.M. Pallam Raju, Dinsha Patel, Harish Rawat and Ashwini Kumar — have been elevated to Cabinet rank.

Fifteen Ministers of State were also sworn in.