Cabinet changes could give hint on reform

NEW DELHI Tue Jan 11, 2011 3:59pm IST

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh speaks during a joint news conference with Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev in New Delhi December 21, 2010. Singh may reshuffle his cabinet this month, government sources said on Tuesday, in a move that may reveal how much support he is giving to some reformist ministers. REUTERS/B Mathur/Files

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh speaks during a joint news conference with Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev in New Delhi December 21, 2010. Singh may reshuffle his cabinet this month, government sources said on Tuesday, in a move that may reveal how much support he is giving to some reformist ministers.

Credit: Reuters/B Mathur/Files

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NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Prime Minister Manmohan Singh may reshuffle his cabinet this month, government sources said on Tuesday, in a move that may reveal how much support he is giving to some reformist ministers.

Singh, facing the toughest time of his second term in office amid accelerating food inflation and corruption scandals, needs to fill several vacancies, some which came about as a result of the departure of ministers over graft accusations.

Singh could just make cosmetic changes to fill vacancies or he could reshuffle some controversial ministers, such as Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh.

Ramesh is seen as a reformist who has been criticised in business and political circles for blocking major industrial projects over green concerns.

The reshuffle could show the direction the government will take, either to back reformist ministers or bow to political expediency and industry pressures, in the run-up to important state elections this year and a general election due by 2014.

"You could expect something by January 26," said a senior government source who is not authorised to speak to the media and declined to be identified.

Singh held a meeting on Saturday to discuss cabinet changes and more meetings were likely in coming days, said another government official.

Ruling Congress party spokesman Manish Tewari declined to comment on the possibility of a reshuffle, except to say: "Reshuffle is in the domain of the prime minister, he can do it any time."

Any ministerial reshuffle will also need the nod of Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi, seen as the power behind the government and regarded as further to the left than the prime minister.

Ministerial vacancies have been created by the resignations of Sashi Tharoor as junior foreign minister and Andimuthu Raja as telecommunications minister, the latter over a link to a $39 billion telecoms scam.

Several elderly and powerful ministers have been criticised for scuttling new thinking in government, frustrating efforts toward faster reform, such as opening up the retail sector to foreign investors after a resounding election victory in 2009.

Singh also needs to take into account the demands for government jobs from an important ally, the DMK party, which held the telecommunications ministry.

Media have reported Environment Minister Ramesh might lose his job, as also could Roads Minister Kamal Nath's. Moving Ramesh, however, could raise question over whether the government was succumbing to pressure from industry.

"I don't think he will be touched because he is very close to Sonia Gandhi," D.H. Pai Panandikar, head of private think tank RPG Foundation, said.

In September, Singh said he would like to reduce the average age of his cabinet, which is more than 64. Many ministers, including Singh, are older than 70.

(Editing by Alistair Scrutton)

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Comments (1)
Teeni wrote:
AMRITSAR: A day after UKs’ former home secretary Jack Straw blamed some Pakistani Muslim men for targeting “vulnerable” White girls sexually, UK’s Hindu and Sikh organizations also publicly accused Muslim groups of the same offence.

Straw, in an interview to the BBC recently, had said, “…there is a specific problem which involves Pakistani heritage men…who target vulnerable young white girls…they see these young women, white girls who are vulnerable, some of them in care … who they think are easy meat.”

Feeling emboldened by Straw’s statement, UK’s Hindu and Sikh organizations have also come in open and accused some Pakistani men of specifically targeting Hindu and Sikh girls. “This has been a serious concern for the last decade,” said Hardeep Singh of Network of Sikh Organizations (NSO) while talking to TOI on Monday.

Sikhs and Hindus are annoyed that Straw had shown concern for White girls and not the Hindu and the Sikh teenage girls who have been coaxed by some Pakistani men for sex and religious conversion.

“Straw does other communities a disservice by suggesting that only white girls were targets of this predatory behaviour. We raised the issue of our girls with the previous government and the police on several occasions over the last decade. This phenomenon has been there because a minority of Islamic extremists view all ‘non believers’ as legitimate targets,” said director NSO Inderjit Singh.

Targeted sexual offences and forced conversions of Hindu and Sikh girls was not a new phenomenon in the UK, said Ashish Joshio from Media Monitoring group.

“This has been going on for decades in the UK . Young Muslim men have been boasting about seducing the Kaffir (unbeliever) women. The Hindu and the Sikh communities must be commended for showing both restraint and maturity under such provocation,” he added.

Hardeep said that in 2007, The Hindu Forum of Britain claimed that hundreds of Hindu and Sikh girls had been first romantically coaxed and later intimidated and converted by Muslim men.

Inderjit said,” We are heartened by the swift condemnation of this behaviour by the Prime Minister David Cameron and his government. However, we urge the government to be firm in dealing with this criminal behaviour to protect the vulnerable girls, and, importantly protect the good name of the majority law abiding members of the Muslim community

Jan 12, 2011 12:06pm IST  --  Report as abuse
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