New Delhi: P Chidambaram has been assigned his favorite portfolio of finance by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with Sushil Kumar Shinde getting a promotion as he takes charge of the Home Ministry with M Veerapa Moily getting additional responcibilities of Corporate Affairs Minister.
The limited reshuffle of portfolios left open an opportunity for bigger changes after the monsoon session that would also decide if Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi assumes a role in the government.
A reshuffle of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) is also being contemplated, party leaders said. Chidambaram, 66, who earlier in the day addressed a press conference as home minister, was widely seen in the Congress circles as replacement for Pranab Mukherjee after his election as the country's president.
The change in his portfolio came after his return from Congress-ruled Assam where recent ethnic flare-up killed 56 and displaced thousands of people. Chidambaram had assumed charge of home ministry when it was drawing flak over internal security situation in the country. He now faces a challenging task as finance minister in the wake of slowdown in the country's GDP growth, declining value of rupee, concerns over fiscal deficit, worries over investor confidence and global economic uncertainty.
However, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) described the change of portfolios by the prime minister as "pathetic" and questioned the credibility of both Shinde and Chidambaram, saying the latter's first stint has been questionable.
"It is a clear case of talent deficit. Chidambaram's role has been questionable as the finance minister. There are allegations against his family," said BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad.
Chidambaram, a Congress MP from Sivaganga in Tamil Nadu, was finance minister in the first United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government (2004-09) till 2008, when he took over home from Shivraj Patil in the wake of the 26/11 Mumbai attack.
His years as finance minister saw GDP registering a growth rate of over nine percent for three successive years.
Shinde, (70) who was power minister before taking over home, is considered a loyalist of the Nehru-Gandhi family. His new appointment came even as power ministry was facing widespread criticism over breakdown of northern grid for two successive days resulting in crippling power outages in several states.
Congress sources said Shinde's appointment as home minister was an indication that he could be appointed as Leader of the House in Lok Sabha to replace of Mukherjee.
A low-profile politician, Shinde belongs to the Dalit community and his elevation to a crucial portfolio is likely to be leveraged by Congress leaders for political gains in the forthcoming elections.
An MP from Solapur in Maharashtra, Shinde has served as a chief minister of the state.
Moily, who was law minister in the UPA-II government before being moved to Corporate Affairs, is considered a hands-on leader with a grip on facts and figures.
Interestingly Chidambaram had earlier discounted possibility of becoming finance minister again.
"I don't think so," Chidambaram had told reporters after presenting his ministry's monthly report card. "We will meet again next month," he added.
The announcements of portfolios was made in a Rashtrapati Bhavan communique on Tuesday.
Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi said that reshuffle was prime minister's prerogative and changes have been effected as there was vacancy in the finance ministry after Mukherjee's election as president.
Congress sources said "a major reshuffle" could take place after the monsoon session, which begins on August 8.