Indian PM reshuffles cabinet ahead of elections | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 29.10.2012
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Indian PM reshuffles cabinet ahead of elections

Experts say that the reshuffle of India's federal cabinet by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is aimed at wooing voters ahead of 2014 parliamentary elections and state elections in 2013.

In what is possibly the last major cabinet reshuffle before the 2014 parliamentary elections, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh introduced 17 new faces to his cabinet, among which many are younger than their predecessors.

"This reshuffle has been on the cards for a while," political analyst P.K. Datta told DW. "Prime Minister Singh wants to shake off the perception that his government is static and non-functional."

Indian supporters cheer and listen as Indian yoga guru Baba Ramdev addresses participants during a visits to Indian veteran social activist and anti-corruption bill activist Anna Hazare on his protest for a stronger Lokpal, or anti-corruption bill, in New Delhi, India, 27 July 2012. Photo: EPA/ANINDITO MUKHERJEE (c) dpa - Bildfunk

Anti-corruption campaigns have been on the rise in India

The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government has been hit by a series of corruption scandals in the past two years. India's economic growth has also slowed down in recent years, which has had a negative impact on Singh's reputation. Singh's government also faces the wrath of anti-corruption campaigners who want to establish a body to investigate and prosecute politicians and bureaucrats in corruption allegations.

To restore his image, PM Singh announced reforms on foreign direct investments (FDI) in the insurance and pension sectors last month which analysts say will be beneficial for the Indian economy. Indian political experts are also of the view that the cabinet reshuffle might also help Singh give the impression to Indian citizens that he is ready to go to any extent to improve the performance of his government.

He reshuffled a number of key portfolios including those of the oil, energy, foreign policy, railways and justice ministries over the weekend.

Gandhi's influence

As most Indian political observers were expecting, Rahul Gandhi, the ruling Congress party's 42-year-old general secretary and the scion of India's powerful Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, did not join the cabinet. Experts say this leaves the field open for Gandhi to play a bigger role in the party before the elections. It was widely expected that Gandhi would be the Congress Party's candidate for prime minister in the next parliamentary elections.

While many experts were looking forward to the change in cabinet, not many were expecting the introduction of so many younger ministers. Many of these younger ministers are believed to be close to Gandhi.

Rahul Gandhi, left, with his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, and brother-in-law Robert Vadra (Photo: AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh, File)

Rahul Gandhi's role in Indian politics is increasing

"The promotion of younger ministers to the federal cabinet is a sign that the Indian government is ready to experiment," said sociologist Sanjay Srivastava. "It also shows Rahul Gandhi's increasing role in the affairs of government."

Indian media claimed that Gandhi held a meeting with Prime Minister Singh ahead of the cabinet rejig.

State elections

Indian opposition parties are unimpressed with the cabinet's changes.

"It is an exercise aimed at repairing image," Rajiv Pratap Rudy, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson, told DW.

The rejig exercise also comes ahead of two critical state polls in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat, which will be held before the end of the year.Seven more Indian states will hold elections next year.

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