Critics rail at Rao reshuffle

THE INDIAN Prime Minister, Narasimha Rao, reshuffled his cabinet yesterday in an attempt to restore the flagging credibility of his Congress government, damaged by religious fighting between Hindus and Muslims across the country and a stock-market scandal which stalled economic reforms.

Initial reactions to Mr Rao's cabinet changes were negative. Opposition parties fault the Prime Minister for refusing to sack the controversial ministers of home affairs, finance and defence, whose mishandling, they claim, have led to India's political and religious trauma. Even within the Congress party - which has governed India over the past 18 months with a fragile minority - the verdict was split.

Not many unfamiliar faces popped up in Mr Rao's new cabinet. His External Affairs Minister, Dinesh Singh, and the Commerce Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, had served under Indira Gandhi in the 1970s and have dangled in a netherworld of Congress politics ever since. Neither are MPs, and safe by-election seats are hastily being hunted for them. Two other entries are A K Anthony, a party boss from Kerala and close ally of Mr Rao's, who takes over the portfolio of Civil Supplies, and N K P Salve, who will head the power ministry. Twelve new ministers of state were also named.

Judging from the number of new Muslims promoted to ministerial level, Mr Rao is trying to woo back the minority community of 120 million Muslims, which lost faith in him after the government's failure to stop Hindu extremists from tearing down a mosque in the northern town of Ayodhya. That act of destruction led to widespread communal clashes, from which India is still reeling.

Congress politicians from the powerful north Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar are gathering signatures to force Mr Rao to hold an emergency general party meeting where it is likely that he may be ousted as party chief. M J Akbar, a former Congress party spokesman, said that Mr Rao's cabinet overhaul failed to 'regenerate' the government. The 71-year-old Prime Minister is trying to shake off accusations that he remained paralysed by indecision while religious clashes blazed two weeks ago in the large cities of Bombay and Ahmadabad, where more than 600 people were killed.

Krishnalal Sharma, a spokesman for the main opposition group, the right-wing Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party, said that Mr Rao had lacked the courage to dismiss 'inconvenient colleagues' by axeing 'scapegoats' instead.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

The Green Recruitment Company: Operations Manager - Anaerobic Digestion / Biogas

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Operation...

SThree: Experienced Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £40000 per annum + OTE + Incentives + Benefits: SThree: Established f...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Maintenance Person

£7 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care organisation take pride in del...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker

£7 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care organisation take pride in del...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent