NEW DELHI, Jan 19 � The first major shake-up of UPA �II has come as damp news for Assam. The lone Cabinet Minister Bijoy Krishna Handique was divested of his Mines portfolio, while no new face was inducted from the State.
Minister of State for Water Resources, Vincent H Pala, however, has been given an additional portfolio of Minority Affairs Ministry.
Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh�s rejig has left even his own party men from Assam surprised because they were expecting some sops ahead of the ensuing Assembly polls. What further added to their anxiousness was that Handique has been left with only an inconsequential Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER).
The Ministry is considered a light affair and has been conventionally given as an additional responsibility. The Mines Ministry has gone to Dinsa Patel.
Sources in the Congress Party revealed that Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi�s intervention saved the day for Handique, who was tipped to be dropped. The list of probables included Paban Singh Ghatowar and Ismail Hussain, said sources.
Since Handique has been retained, a decision may have been taken not to induct any new face from the State, ostensibly to prevent heart burning among other Congress MPs of the State ahead of the election. Perhaps it was also assumed that induction of a new face may not make much of a difference at this stage, said a senior State Congress leader.
As the Mines Minister, Handique grabbed the headlines because of the controversies surrounding the Ministry. To his credit, Handique piloted the new Mining Act. He also had to fight off attempts to get the Mining Ministry attached with Steel Ministry.
Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh�s statement after the expansion, however, held some hope for the aspirants. �This is a minor reshuffle and after the Budget Session we will have an expansive reshuffle,� he told newsmen.