Posted by: John Elliott | May 28, 2009

Some good names in India’s new cabinet

There are some new and interesting names in the appointments announced this evening for India’s new government after eleven days of haggling (for today’s earlier post click here).

They indicate a new constructive approach, driven by prime minister Manmohan Singh, especially on commerce and industry, education, the environment, and highways. (Click here for full list).

Four are specially notable:

ANAND SHARMA, minister for commerce and industry – on a big and surprise promotion, having previously been minister of state in external affairs and information, he is likely to take a less combative stance over WTO negotiations than his predecessor, Kamal Nath – and be a more straightforward, and maybe caring, economic liberaliser. He is also a Congress Party spokesman.

KAMAL NATH, minister for road transport and highways – previously commerce and industry minister, so this is definitely not a promotion, in fact it looks the reverse – but the sector needs tough action to revive stalled highway construction, and he has the political strength to do it.

KAPIL SIBAL, minister for human resource development – a good promotion and appointment (suggested on this blog) for this top lawyer who was previously minister for science and technology where he applied himself with the commitment that India’s dilapidated education system needs. Also a Congress spokesman.

JAIRAM RAMESH,  minister of state (with independent charge) for  environment and forests – previously in industry and power, and a top party adviser, he is likely to break the track record of many of his predecessors and bring in straightforward policies aimed primarily at streamlining environmental controls, instead of pursuing other agendas. He might be tough resisting international demands on climate change.

Others include:

MURLI DEORA, remains  minister for petroleum and natural gas;

AMBIKA SONI, a Gandhi family confidante becomes  minister for information and broadcasting;

A. RAJA remains minister for communications and information technology despite the prime minister’s wish not to give him any job at all;

SHASHI THAROOR, former top United Nations official who failed to get the secretary general’s job, is a minister of state in the ministry of external affairs;

SALMAN KHURSHEED, a minister in the 1980s and 1990s, and former Uttar Pradesh party chief, returns to the central government with double tasks as minister of state (with independent charge) for corporate affairs (he is a lawyer) and minorities;

PRAFUL PATEL remains minister of state (with independent charge) for civil aviation, despite the sector’s problems.

And Surprising – and Expected:

S.M.KRISHNA – a surprising choice as minister for external affairs, announced last weekend, he is an almost forgotten 78-year old former chief minister of Karnataka. He is credited with building up Bangalore, Karnataka’s state capital and IT centre, in the 1990s, but it is difficult to see him building much respect or access abroad – and, given his age, will not want to travel much.

MAMATA BANERJEE, leader of the West Bengal Trinamool Congress that routed the state’s communist-led Left Front in the election, was a shoe-in for railways minister last weekend. She showed her priorities are to defeat the communists in 2011 assembly polls when she broke with tradition earlier this week and took over her ministry from an office in Kolkata, not the Delhi headquarters. She said would “give little time to Delhi” and announced railway goodies for West Bengal.


  1. […] recent weeks the story has resurfaced, with calls for Raja to be dismissed as telecom minister – a job that Manmohan Singh reluctantly gave him for a second term after May’s general […]

  2. Great blog, by the way.

  3. Kapil Sibal as a minister for Human Resource Development is probably the best move this government has made so far. India’s education sector is in desperate need of reforms if India’s demographic dividend is to be optimised. Its vital to remove the obstacles that restrict foreign education institution from investing in India and to promote private participation in the education sector – both of which has been so far only a trickle. Sibal is the right person to get this done. He is smart, a winner and an excellent negotiater…he can get things done. His predecessor, Arjun Singh, was a disaster.

    The worst move was to retain A.Raja as the minister for IT and Telecom. This is a man who is widely known to be shamelessly corrupt and incompetent. In retaining him, the Congress government has shown itself to be weak and pathetic, bowing down to the wishes of a very petty Karunanidhi. Manmohan Singh and his boss should have displayed some spine. I just wonder if this is a sign of things to come.

    Lastly, it was a blunder to make Krishna the external affairs minister. He is 77 years old, can hardly walk and speaks like old Vajpayee, with long pauses. He will be an embarassment.

  4. There are also few good names in minister of state list such as j.scindia, s.pilot . .
    Congrats! for your assumptions which came true and wishes to bring up more, it would help us to analyse and make assumption more closer to reality!!! 😉

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