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Pranab Mukherjee is new Foreign Minister, Antony gets Defence

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, Oct 24: Mr Pranab Mukherjee was today appointed the External Affairs Minister while veteran Congressman A K Antony took his place as Defence Minister in a minor expansion-cum-reshuffle of his 29-month-old government by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Apart from Mr Antony, the Prime Minister inducted two Ministers of State.

Kannada actor-turned-politician M H Ambareesh made his debut in the Union Ministry as Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting.

Mr Jay Prakash Narayan Yadav, an RJD leader and a protege of Railway Minister Lalu Prasad, who had to resign last year following allegations of influencing the police in a case of electoral malpractices against his brother, returned to the government, again as Minister of State for Water Resources.

With today's induction, the strength of the Congress-led UPA government has gone up to 80. There are 34 Cabinet ministers, seven Ministers of State (Independent charge) and 39 Ministers of State.

In the expansion carried out today, the Prime Minister inducted two leaders from his Congress party and one from the RJD.

The new ministers were administered the oath of office and secrecy by President APJ Abdul Kalam at a brief ceremony in the Ashoka Hall of Rashtrapati Bhavan.

UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, former Prime Minister I K Gujral, central ministers and top military and civil officials attended the function.

Along with the expansion, the Prime Minister reallocated portfolios of a few of his ministerial colleagues. Panchayati Raj and Youth Affairs and Sports Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar was given the additional charge of Development of North-Eastern Region.

Mr Oscar Fernandes, who was Minister of State without portfolio was given Independent charge of the Labour and Employment Ministry.

Minister of State for Labour Chandra Shekhar Sahu was shifted to the Rural Development Ministry.

Mr Mukherjee returns to the External Affairs Ministry after almost a decade. A veteran Congress leader, Mr Mukherjee has held important positions both in the Union cabinet as well as in the party. The coveted External Affairs portfolio was held by the Prime Minister for almost a year after Mr K Natwar Singh had to resign after his name figured in the Volcker Committee report on the Iraqi oi-for-food scam in November last year.

The Leader of the Lok Sabha, Mr Mukherjee is virtually No.2 in the Manmohan Singh government heading almost half-a-dozen politically important Group of Ministers (GoMs), including those on reservation and Telengana.

Mr Antony, 65, returns to the Union Cabinet after a gap of 11 years. He had resigned as Civil Supplies Minister in the Narasimha Rao government in 1995 following the sugar scam.

A three-time Chief Minister of Kerala, he is a Congress Working Committee member and incharge of the party affairs in Karnataka.

Known as 'Rebel Star Ambareesh' among his fans, Mr Ambareesh, the Congress MP from Mandya, is a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare.

RJD leader Jay Prakash Narayan Yadav, 52, was a Minister of State for Water Resources in the Manmohan Singh government, but had to quit during the Bihar Assembly elections last year following allegations of influencing police to release his brother, a suspect in an electoral malpractice.

Mr Yadav represents the Munger constituency in Bihar.


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