Kamal Nath's new portfolio takes industry by surprise

Friday, 29 May 2009, 02:33 Hrs
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New Delhi: The decision to shift Kamal Nath out of the commerce ministry to be given charge of the road transport and highways portfolio was Thursday seen by India Inc as the most unexpected development in the allocation of portfolios by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Kamal Nath, who was the voice of India at multilateral trade talks and often criticised by rich nations for being over-protective of developing countries, was replaced by Anand Sharma, who was earlier minister of state for information and broadcasting.

"I am happy with my new portfolio," Kamal Nath said, though looking visibly upset, as media speculation over portfolios had earlier said he could either take over as the next human resource development minister or retain his earlier portfolio.

"I was told to do something challenging. And I am happy with that," he said, recalling that he was asked to take charge of the surface transport ministry by none other than Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

Some industry leaders, nevertheless, said the move was unexpected.

"There were some under-currents that he (Kamal Nath) may be shifted out. But the move to give him transport and bring in Anand Sharma to commerce instead was unexpected," said a senior official in a leading industry chamber.

"But let's not forget, economy matters today involve a fair dose of diplomacy and Anand Sharma will bring his rich experience to the ministry," the official said, alluding to Sharma's stint at the external affairs ministry.

Industry sources speculated that Kamal Nath's tough postures previously at multilateral forums, because of which heads of state or government had to call up Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the past, may have cost him his previous portfolio.
Source: IANS
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