India - Muslim faces in the new government
The Milli Gazette, May 27, 2004
Seven Muslims have made it to India's new central cabinet in the newly formed government of the United Secular Alliance headed by Manmohan Singh of the Congress Party. Four of them belong to the Congress while the rest are from the allies. The previous NDA government had only one "Muslim" minister: the feather-weight showboy Shahnawaz Husain who has been trounced in these elections. Two ministers hold the cabinet rank while other are ministers of state.
The cabinet rank ministers are Ghulam Nabi Azad (Congress, member of Rajya Sabha) and PM Sayeed (Congress, who had made it to the Guinness Book of records for having won Lakshdweep seat ten times in a row but lost in the last elections by just 72 votes). It is expected that Sayeed will be made a member of Parliament's Upper House (Rajya Sabha). Azad has been given the important portfolio of Parliamentary affairs while Sayeed has the charge of the ministry of Urban Development and Power.
Muslim ministers of state are:
* E. Ahammed (Muslim League, elected from Ponnani): External Affairs);
* Dr Shakeel Ahmad (Congress, elected to the Lok Sabha from Madhubani): Communications & Information Technology;
* K. Rahman Khan (Congress, member of Rajya Sabha): Chemicals & Fertilizers;
* Muhammad Taslimuddin (RJD, elected from Kishanganj defeating Shahnawaz): Heavy Industries & Public Enterprises;
* Muhammad Ali Ashraf Fatmi (RJD, elected from Darbhanga): Human Resources Development.
With the exception of Shakil Ahmad, all Congress members are from the Rajya Sabha which is not a healthy sign. Clearly, loyalty to party president Sonia Gandhi has been a greater factor in these selections. Heavyweights and highly experienced persons who held ministerial posts in the past, like AR Antulay (elected from Kolaba) and ABA Ghani Khan Choudhury (elected from Malda), have been neglected. Salman Khurshid, another high flying Congress leader who earlier held the post of minister of state for external affairs, too, has not been accommodate.
Though important portfolios have been given to Muslim MPs, the real test depends to what extent the Muslim community will benefit from the programmes of the new government and if safety and security of the community will be ensured in order to bring it to the mainstream. Congress has to prove its sincerity by implementing promises made to minorities in its election manifesto.
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