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Pranab, Anthony assume charge; BJP cries foul

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, Oct 25: Mr Pranab Mukherjee today took charge as the External Affairs Minister and Mr A K Anthony as the Defence Minister, while Mr J P Yadav, who has been reinducted into the ministry, assumed office as the MOS Water Resources.

Minister for Panchayati Raj, Youth Affairs and Sports Mani Shankar Aiyer, who has been given the additional charge of the Department for the Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) is expected to take charge on Friday while newly-appointed Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting M H Ambareesh, will assume his office on Friday.

Taking the charge of the External Affairs Ministry, Mr Mukherjee called for peace and tension-free situation in the region, particularly vis-a-vis Pakistan. ''We can't alter our neighbours...It is desirable to live in peace and a tension-free situation,'' Mr Mukherjee told reporters immediately after taking charge of the External Affairs Ministry.

Mr Anthony, immediately after assuming charge at the Ministry of Defence in South Block, affirmed his commitment to protecting "national interest" while finalising defence deals.

He said ''In all aspects we will try to protect national interest... That is the priority.'' Meanwhile, taking exception to bringing back Mr Yadav into the Union Council of Ministers, the BJP said it was disappointing and showed that the UPA government had scant respect for probity in public life.

Party Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu said inclusion of Mr Yadav, who was removed from the ministry for pressurising the administration to release his brother arrested during elections in Bihar was brought back by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh buckling under influence of pressure groups within the government.

His bringing back has signalled that the government does not care for democratic norms, he added.

He also took exception to the Labour Ministry being handled by Minister of State and not a full-time Cabinet Minister. He said it only shows that the government has no person to man the important ministry concerning crore of workers of this country and this government has nothing more to offer than mere lip service.

However, Mr Yadav sidestepped BJP criticism and said he would not react to the accusation at a stage when it was time to celeberate his reinduction.

''I have nothing to say on the issue and the government is capable of dealing with the situation'' was his reaction when asked if the issue would not vitiate the atmosphere in the Parliament.

The Rashtriya Mukti Morcha (RMM), meanwhile, alleged that Mr Anthony was yet to pay an amount of Rs 14.69 lakhs to the Air Force incurred on airlift for special flight between New Delhi and Thiruvananthapuram during 1995.

In a letter to the Prime Minister it said Mr Anthony is being considered to be the most honest Congress politician but has so far not paid the money as per the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG).


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