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Asia

India's government reshuffle falls short of expectations

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has reshuffled his cabinet in a bid to reinvigorate his coalition government after a series of controversies over corruption and food inflation.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did not get rid of any cabinet ministers

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did not get rid of any cabinet ministers

In the end, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s much-touted cabinet reshuffle fell short of expectations as no minister was dropped and only some portfolios were changed.

There are three new cabinet ministers, all three elevated from the minister of state rank, and three new ministers of state.

The prime minister replaced the Sports Minister M S Gill after corruption scandals erupted during last year's Commonwealth Games, and Gill is now in charge of the ministry of statistics.

There have been several allegations of corruption related to the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi

There have been several allegations of corruption related to the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi

Kamal Nath, the powerful roads minister in charge of improving infrastructure, was also moved after he was criticized for building new roads too slowly.

No young blood injected

However, no corruption-tainted leader was dropped and no young blood was injected. The four major portfolios - finance, home, defense and external affairs – were not touched.

This was the first ministerial reshuffle since the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government returned to power in mid-2009. It was designed to regain lost momentum and to refurbish the image of the government.

Political commentator Shekhar Gupta was disappointed saying that the reshuffle "shows a lack of focus."

"I think it tells you that the top leadership of the Congress party has not been able to focus on the issues and challenges and to come up with a new idea. They think they are going to win the 2014 elections and they don't want to take any risks until then."

Failure to act against corruption

The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, which has been raising the pitch on the corruption scandals and even paralyzed the functioning of parliament over the issue in the last session, was not impressed either.

The roads minister has been replaced after being criticized for building new roads too slowly

The roads minister has been replaced after being criticized for building new roads too slowly

Party Spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said the government had failed to act against corruption. "Today's cabinet reshuffle has no political message or signal. This new council of ministers has just meant the prime minister exchanging seats. The expectations that the country had have not been satisfied," he said.

The reshuffle comes amid inquiries that are currently underway into allegations of fraud and kick-backs surrounding Delhi's hosting of last October's Commonwealth Games, and into the flawed 2008 auction of 2G spectrum mobile phone licenses that is estimated to have cost the country over $30 billion.

The prime minister himself even said the reshuffle was minor and promised there would be major changes later this year, after the February budget session of parliament and after the crucial West Bengal and Tamil Nadu assembly elections.

Many observers said the changes seemed to have been made more with party politics in mind than governance. The strategic inclusion and promotion of leaders from Uttar Pradesh are in keeping with the special attention given to India's most populous state by Rahul Gandhi, the influential son of party leader Sonia Gandhi.

Author: Murali Krishnan (New Delhi)
Editor: Thomas Baerthlein

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