India media cautious over government reshuffle

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, center, in blue turban poses with newly sworn in ministers after the swearing-in ceremony in New Delhi, India, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012
Image caption PM Singh called the new cabinet a "combination of youth and experience"

India's media is cautiously optimistic about the government's major reshuffle on Sunday, in which 22 new ministers were sworn in.

Along with seven new ministers, 15 junior ministers were sworn in.

The move is being seen as an attempt to get younger politicians into the Congress Party-led government ahead of national elections in 2014.

PM Manmohan Singh has called his new cabinet a "combination of youth and experience".

Key portfolios affected by the reshuffle include oil, foreign affairs and justice. Foreign Minister SM Krishna, 80, has been replaced by Salman Khurshid, 59, previously law minister.

Rahul Gandhi, of the influential Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and tipped as a future leader, refused to join the cabinet.


Hindustan Times described the new cabinet as a "mix of youth and experience", with more "agile people in the drivers' seat".

The "singular message" of the reshuffle is that the "short time before the elections [will] be one during which the government will implement its agenda now that it has the team it really wants in place".

The Hindu, however, felt that the reshuffle was "mildly dramatic, [and] no show-stopper".

"The reshuffle has turned out to be quietly dramatic, with changes in key cabinet portfolios, mid-level but significant promotions for young ministers, and the strategic accommodation of regional interests aimed at boosting the strength of the Congress party in key states," the newspaper said.

Image caption Rahul Gandhi refused to join the cabinet

But "with time running out for the Congress, a bolder, chancier reshuffle focused on bridging the governance deficit that is so apparent in dozens of ministries would have been a more prudent electoral strategy than its reliance on a political model centred around regional appeasement, traditional loyalties and patronage networks," the newspaper added.

The Times Of India voiced similar sentiments, saying that the reshuffle did not really "presage a reboot of the government", but bore the government's "hallmarks of caution and incrementalism".

"Many of the changes still reflect concerns of old fashioned identity politics rather than any resolve to upgrade governance, by inducting merit and youth into the ranks of the cabinet", the newspaper said.

Over the past few years, the Indian government has been hit by a number of corruption scandals and has been accused of indecisiveness and policy paralysis.

The Indian Express said the reshuffle had come late and the country had lost "precious time while the Congress dithered".

"The reshuffle itself may not be able to satisfy all the demands of a particularly fraught moment," the newspaper said.

But now the government "must deliver or pay the price for the endless drift".

The main opposition BJP party has said the reshuffle was a "vain exercise by the government to refurbish its image.

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