Ruffled by Reshuffle
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The late Sunday evening change in the allocation of portfolios, giving the minister of state (independent charge) for youth affairs and sports, Jitendra Singh, additional responsibility as MoS, defence, has created ripples in the ruling dispensation.
Singh is a close aide of Rahul Gandhi and his promotion and an additional portfolio not only reflected the growing profile of the Alwar MP but also indicated that he is being groomed for a larger role. It is not the first time that an MoS with independent charge reporting to the prime minister has also been appointed a deputy to another cabinet minister, thereby placing him under two bosses.
While ruling party leaders play down the transfer of the defence portfolio from Jitin Prasada to Jitendra Singh, attributing it to a "clerical error" caused by similar-sounding names, young ministers who were not to be promoted had actually been informed in advance that they would be compensated with dual portfolios. MoS, home, R P N Singh was said to be under the impression that he also retained petroleum & natural gas as it had not been allotted to anyone else.
He was informed later that he only had home as it was a major portfolio. There was obviously a well-laid out plan for young ministers. Jitin and R P N were not promoted because they were recently given the responsibility of zones in Uttar Pradesh, a move that boosted their political stature. The confusion in the allocation of the defence portfolio indicated some last-minute changes in the plan.
While dual responsibility, in itself, did not necessarily encumber the functioning of a minister, the issue required to be given a fresh look in some cases such as that of MoS (independent charge), statistics and programme implementation, Srikant Jena, who has to deal with an absentee boss, M K Alagiri, in the chemicals and fertilisers ministry. If the number of portfolios has to reflect the political stature of a minister, the allotment should not be done as an after-thought because the goof-up in the allocation of the defence portfolio could blunt the message that was sought to be conveyed through the promotion of young ministers.
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