x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Gandhi not part of India PM Singh's cabinet reshuffle

Seven new ministers and 15 junior ministers took the oath of office at a brief ceremony to mark the changes aimed at bringing in younger faces into the Cabinet.

NEW DELHI // India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reshuffled his Cabinet on Sunday in a bid to overhaul his government's image ahead of state and national elections over the next 18 months.

Seven new ministers and 15 junior ministers took the oath of office at a brief ceremony to mark the changes aimed at bringing in younger faces into the Cabinet.

However, Congress Party star campaigner Rahul Gandhi was not part of the new Cabinet. Congress party leaders said he would concentrate on reviving the fortunes of the party before the national elections in 2014.

The 42-year-old Gandhi, whose father, grandmother and great-father all served as prime ministers, had decided to remain in his post as a secretary general of the main ruling Congress party, Mr Singh said as he unveiled a cabinet reshuffle.

"I wanted Rahul Gandhi in government, but he wants to strengthen the party," Mr Singh said after a ceremony at the presidential palace.

The portfolios of the new ministers were not announced immediately. Traditionally, responsibilities of the ministers are announced several hours after they are sworn in.

Five senior ministers had resigned over the weekend to allow the introduction of younger new faces in the ministerial line-up.

The long-awaited Cabinet changes gained urgency after the Congress Party-led coalition government was hit by a wave of corruption scandals. The revamp also filled several vacancies after a key ally opposed to recent economic reforms quit the coalition.

"This reshuffle is to bring in fresh faces and is an important step keeping in view the general elections in 2014," Milind Deora, a junior minister said Sunday.

The induction of younger lawmakers and the shuffling of ministerial portfolios were being viewed as a major makeover for Singh's government that has been hit by charges of corruption and lethargy even as provincial elections are due in 11 states in the coming year.

Several ministers were facing corruption charges stemming from scandals over the hosting of the 2010 Commonwealth Games, the sale of mobile phone rights and allocation of coal fields that auditors said lost the country of billions of dollars.