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Delhi ministry offers three cheers

New Delhi, May 22: Three MPs from the Northeast were inducted into the council of ministers that was sworn in today in the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA).

While veteran Congressman from Meghalaya P.R. Kyndiah bagged a cabinet berth, Santosh Mohan Dev has been made minister of state with independent charge and Bijoy Krishna Handique a minister of state.

Rumours circulating among MPs in the past few days claimed that Assam MP Biren Singh Ingti and Manipur Rajya Sabha MP Reishang Keishang were also being considered by the party high command for ministerial berths.

“The allocation of berths was being decided on the basis of various factors, such as relations with the allies. It is necessary to keep the allies in good humour and meet their demands. It is apparent that the principle of one minister for every three MPs had not been followed in every state,” an MP said, adding that Assam alone should then have been allotted three berths.

Of a total of 25 seats in the region, including Sikkim, the Congress had won 11 seats. While the party had performed the best in Assam, winning 9 seats, it bagged one each in Meghalaya and Manipur.

In 1991, Tarun Gogoi, Dev and Pawan Singh Ghatowar were the three ministers who were inducted into the P.V. Narasimha Rao government of a total of eight seats that the Congress had won in the state.

Handique said it was an “opportunity” to serve the people in the Northeast.

“We must work diligently and usher in change, specially among the backward sections of society. But much would depend upon the portfolio that is given,” he said.

After Purno Agitok Sangma, this is the only time in Meghalaya’s political history that a politician has been made a cabinet minister. Those close to Kyndiah said they would were keen to “see him as a central minister” in the Manmohan Singh cabinet.

“We are sure he will be given an important portfolio,” said one of them before the swearing-in ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Dev said his induction was conveyed to him by none other than Sonia Gandhi. Seventy-year-old Dev, whose father Satindra Mohan was a minister in the B.P. Chaliha government in the Sixties, first became the Silchar MP in 1980 and has been elected seven times since.

In 1982 he was Union minister of state for tourism and has since held diverse portfolios such as communications, defence, home and steel.

A former cricketer and an avid golfer, Dev has a diploma in management from the Institute of Technology in Cardiff in the UK. His wife Bithika is currently the chairperson of Silchar municipality.

Handique, also 70, is a first-time inductee. A post-graduate from Calcutta University, he is the son of renowned litterateur Krishna Kanta Handique. He was first elected to the Lok Sabha in 1991 from Jorhat parliamentary constituency and has not lost since.

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