Bloomberg News

Singh to Appoint Ministers as India’s Congress Gears Up for Poll

June 17, 2013

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will today fill vacancies in his cabinet in what may be his last reshuffle ahead of elections due in less than a year.

On the eve of the overhaul, the ruling Congress party handed positions to a raft of young politicians and appointed senior members to run its affairs in key states. The Congress leadership, damaged by a series of corruption scandals since 2010 and slumping economic growth, is seeking to energize a party that trailed rivals in opinion polls last month.

The changes to Singh’s council of ministers will be confirmed at 5:30 p.m. local time today at a ceremony in the colonial-era president’s palace in central New Delhi, said Venu Rajamony, press secretary to President Pranab Mukherjee. Singh needs to fill openings at various ministries, including those in charge of railways, highways, housing and law.

With India scheduled to vote for a new government before the end of May next year, political tensions are rising. While Singh is bidding to force through ballot-winning legislation, the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party papered over a split among its top leadership last week triggered by the promotion of Gujarat’s Narendra Modi. The BJP’s biggest ally quit the opposition alliance yesterday, citing its aversion to Modi.

Pawan Kumar Bansal resigned as railways minister in May after the Central Bureau of Investigation arrested a member of his family on charges he accepted money to help secure an official post in the rail department. Ashwani Kumar quit as law minister after the CBI told India’s top court that he was among officials who vetted a probe report on an award of coal mines award and altered its contents. Both men deny any wrongdoing.

Poll Results

Two other ministers -- C.P. Joshi and Ajay Maken --resigned as ministers of highways and housing respectively at the weekend to take up key posts in the Congress party apparatus. Labor Minister Mallikarjun Kharge may be put in charge of the railways portfolio, while Oscar Fernandes may become the new highways minister, the Times of India newspaper reported, citing people it didn’t name.

About 67 percent of those polled last month for CNN-IBN said Singh’s government has lost its credibility in the face of graft scandals and rising prices. Only 31 percent said the Congress party-led coalition represented the best option for running India. A C-voter survey for the Times Now TV channel found in April that a drop in support for Congress would slash its strength in parliament after an election.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bibhudatta Pradhan in New Delhi at bpradhan@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Hari Govind at hgovind@bloomberg.net


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