New Delhi/Kolkata: The Union Cabinet reshuffle was dubbed as "lacklustre" and a "face saving" exercise by the opposition with the BJP claiming it will not do any good to the country or improve the Congress' image.

The UPA's former ally Trinamool Congress, which pulled out of Manmohan Singh government last month, had a different take, saying the three Congress leaders chosen as ministers of state from West Bengal were there only to 'needle' the party. It also said West Bengal was deprived of adequate ministerial representation.

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Dismissing the reshuffle as a "face saving" exercise, BJP's ally Akali Dal said it is the "same old wine in new bottle".

"This reshuffle was lacklustre. It will not do any good to the country or even to the Congress party. It was expected that young blood will be given more representation in the Cabinet but this has not been done," BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said.

Hussain, who became a Cabinet minister at the age of 32 in the erstwhile NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, said even the few young leaders who took oath of office have not been given a Cabinet berth.

"Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has only given the young leaders Minister of State status. The average age of the Cabinet has not come down much though it was being talked about," he said.

Punjab Chief Minister and Akali Dal patron Parkash Singh Badal said the reshuffle is not going to help Congress and in no way improve the image of the UPA government.

"This exercise would prove futile. What the country needed at this crucial juncture was some revolutionary changes in policies in the interests of the common man and not political gimmicks or jugglery of sorts to befool the aam adami (common man)," Badal told reporters in Ludhiana.

In Kolkata, TMC leader Saugata Roy said "West Bengal has been thoroughly deprived in the cabinet reshuffle. West Bengal had two most important leaders (Pranab Mukherjee and Mamata Banerjee) in the Union Cabinet in 2009. Now it has none", Roy said.

The three Congress leaders from the state, all bitter critics of Mamata Banerjee, were picked up as ministers only to 'needle' TMC, Roy said. Roy ruled out its impact on TMC's political growth.

Another BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said the reshuffle has not excited the country but claimed that the Prime Minister is right in maintaining that this was the last such exercise "as the UPA will be voted out of power".

"This reshuffle is an internal affair of the Congress and has not excited the country because by changing faces the character and performance will not change. People are angry with the government because of inflation, corruption and non-governance and this is not going to change," he said.

Taking pot-shots at Prime Minister Singh, Javadekar said, "He has said this is the last reshuffle. Here he is right as the next change will be effected by the people and they will change the regime itself." Senior BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said nothing will change with this Cabinet reshuffle as the "Captain (Prime Minister Manmohan Singh) and the Coach (Congress President Sonia Gandhi) of the team remain the same".

"Incompetent ministers have been promoted while tainted ones have been given major responsibilities. This shows the mindset of the government. This amply shows their attitude towards tackling corruption and providing good governance," Naqvi said. Senior BJP leader M Venkaiah Naidu alleged that the UPA has taken up cabinet reshuffle in order "to cover up and divert the attention of the people from its failures".

Describing the rejig of the Union Council of Ministers as a "desperate attempt" by the UPA-II to "mislead" people, Naidu said the exercise has "failed" to give any message and the step was "make-up before pack up".

Alleging that Congress has failed on all fronts and is neck deep in corruption, the BJP leader said, "it is now clear that the Congress is insensitive to criticism and has no respect for probity in public life."

"In spite of serious charges against the ministers, some of them are retained and some are even promoted. It is like make up before pack up. This will not serve any purpose.

"With these cosmetic changes, the party which has failed for eight-and-a-half years, wants to make up for it in the remaining time of one and half a year. Any amount of changes is not going to save Congress from a miserable defeat," he said.


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