New Delhi, June 17: In perhaps the last reshuffle and expansion of the Union Council of Ministers, Mallikarjun Kharge was today made the Railways Minister as eight more were inducted with veterans Sis Ram Ola and Oscar Fernandes making a comeback.
After yesterday's reshuffle in the party, senior woman leader from election-bound Rajasthan Girija Vyas and K S Rao from Andhra Pradesh were brought in as Cabinet Ministers in today's exercise which was an all-Congress affair.
Three new faces -- Santosh Chowdhury, J D Seelam and E N S Nachiappan were made Ministers of State along with veteran Maharashtra leader Manikrao Gavit.
With the fresh inductions, the strength of the Union Council of Ministers has gone up to 77. The oath of office and secrecy to the new ministers was administered by President Pranab Mukherjee at a ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan attended by Vice President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and union ministers among others.
71-year-old Kharge, who missed out in the Chief Ministerial race in Karnataka last month, has been compensated with the heavyweight Railway portfolio after being shifted from Labour and Employment.
Labour has now been given to Ola, the 86-year-old Jat leader from Rajasthan who gets back the same portfolio he had held in the UPA-I.
Fernandes, who had also been Labour Minister and Sports and Youth Affairs Minister in UPA-I, got Road and Highways Ministry, succeeding C P Joshi who resigned over the weekend.
Girija Vyas got Housing, Urban Development and Poverty Alleviation, a portfolio held by Ajay Maken who also had quit on Saturday to work for the party. K S Rao (69), a five-time MP from coastal Andhra Pradesh who nearly quit Lok Sabha after being ignored in the Cabinet expansion last year, was given the Textiles portfolio.
Among new Ministers of State, Seelam, a former IAS officer, is a dalit face from Andhra Pradesh. He got Finance. Gavit, 78-year-old tribal leader from Maharashtra and a nine-time MP, has been allotted Social Justice and Empowerment portfolio. Santosh Chowdhury, a dalit from Hoshiarpur in Punjab, was given Health and Family Welfare.