The Telegraph
Sunday , November 25 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Duo in Cong top club

New Delhi, Nov. 24: Salman Khurshid and Kamal Nath are the newest entrants to the group of ministers steering the Congress on matters of politics and governance ahead of the general elections.

While finance minister P. Chidambaram and defence minister A.K. Antony have been an integral part of the group for long, Sushil Kumar Shinde entered it after being appointed home minister.

Khurshid, as external affairs minister — one of the top four ministries, had to be part of the Cabinet Committee on Security, the top government body. He has now also been included in the vital Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs (CCPA). Besides, he has retained his place in the group of ministers on media that he got as law minister although he no longer holds that portfolio.

Khurshid’s predecessor in the external affairs ministry, S.M. Krishna, had no such assignment.

Kamal Nath, another seasoned Congress leader who like Khurshid has seen the political events of the last three decades from very close quarters, has also been made part of the CCPA.

Sources said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was said to be unhappy with his work in the commerce and the surface transport ministries, himself requested the nine-term Lok Sabha MP to manage parliamentary affairs in these difficult times.

But Nath is not part of CCPA only because he now holds additional charge of parliamentary affairs along with urban development. Pawan Bansal, the parliamentary affairs minister before him, was not on this committee.

After Pranab Mukherjee moved to Rashtrapati Bhavan and given what sources describe as the “limited strategic vision” of the new leader of the House, Sushil Kumar Shinde, there has been a need for “experienced leaders” in mainstream political management.

Nath is known for his networking skills and friends across party lines.

Kapil Sibal, who has lost charge of the HRD ministry and only holds telecom, retains his position in the cabinet committees on economic affairs, political affairs and infrastructure.

Jaipal Reddy, who has moved from the petroleum ministry to science and technology, also keeps his place on the CCEA despite the growing perception that he was not in tune with the Prime Minister’s economic vision.

Pawan Bansal, as railway minister, is also part of the CCEA now. But another Congress veteran, health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, is neither a member of the CCPA nor the committee on parliamentary affairs.