Buta Sigh (left) and C.P.N. Singh: PromotionIt was the hour for preening and basking in the gentle glow of self-importance. Bhagwat Jha Azad, the minister of state who got independent charge of the prestigious civil aviation portfolio, took exactly 48 hours to mouth his first policy pronouncement. He hit out,Buta Sigh (left) and C.P.N. Singh: PromotionIt was the hour for preening and basking in the gentle glow of self-importance. Bhagwat Jha Azad, the minister of state who got independent charge of the prestigious civil aviation portfolio, took exactly 48 hours to mouth his first policy pronouncement. He hit out at the system of the executive class on the Airbus fleet of Indian Airlines, described it as “inconsistent with our avowed socialistic principles”, and declared his intention to abolish it. Cost of introducing the system three months ago: Rs 11 lakh. Cost of abolition: Rs 3 lakh.A.B.A. Ghani Khan Chowdhury, the newly-appointed railway minister, took four days to make his first policy statement. He travelled to Calcutta and drove unannounced to Howrah station, where, in the presence of awed officials, he mingled with passengers and listened to their complaints. The same afternoon, he addressed his first press conference as railway minister, and announced that he wanted to give complete autonomy to the general managers.The others who should feel happy at least avoided making public statements. P.C. Sethi, whose appointment as home minister upset bookmakers’ calculations, attended the Assam talks as his first engagement in office. But he made it a point to take with him R. Venkataraman, the defence minister, who had been acting as the home minister, and requested him to carry on as chief negotiator. P. Shiv Shanker, the fat-cat among the ministers, stuck to his smaller office as petroleum minister at Shastri Bhavan, while the larger chunk of the staff now under him sat at the Energy Ministry housed in Shram-Shakti Bhavan.advertisementN.K.P. Salve (left) and H.K.L. Bhagat: InductionMixed Rewards: Buta Singh, the only Sikh in the Council of Ministers, was elated to assume Independent charge of the glamorous sports portfolio on the eve of the ninth Asiad in the capital. C.P.N. Singh, who had slid down the hierarchical steps last year when he was transferred from the powerful Defence Ministry to the backroom Department of Science and Technology, notched up a gain this time as he became the minister of state for the newly-created and ponderously named Department of Non-conventional Energy Sources. Singh was too enthralled at the prospect of getting a bonus foothold to complain about the fact that he now has to shuttle between two bosses, Mrs Gandhi, who is the minister for science and technology, and Shiv Shanker, who holds the charge of energy, conventional and otherwise.Heady excitement marked the two older men entering the ministry this time – N.K.P. Salve and H.K.L. Bhagat. Salve, a seasoned lawyer, proved his skill at treading cautiously in the very first week when he described himself as a “former journalist” but hedged his bets when called upon to comment on the Bihar Press Bill. Bhagat laboriously went round the Asiad construction sites, tramping with commendable diligence over the raw cement, but as in Salve’s case, caution prevailed and he refrained from making any public pronouncements.Vasant Sathe (left) and A.P. Sharma: DemotionAmong the dispirited back-benchers were Vasant Sathe, whose transfer from the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, right under the arc lamp of glamour, to the seedy corridors of the Chemicals and Fertilizers Ministry, was archly termed by his critics as the shift from “culture to agriculture”. To make the best of a bad bargain, three rooms were being pulled down in one corner of Shastri Bhavan to set up a new chamber for Sathe. No doubt, all care is being taken to ensure that the suave minister’s aesthetic sensibilities are not hurt in the least.A.P. Sharma divested of his twin empire of civil aviation and tourism, sulkily avoided the press. As the new communications minister, the first gift he received for the house-warming party was the depressing news of the failure of the much-touted Indian communication satellite INSAT-1A. Hopefully, his future at his new ministry will not be as ill-starred as his beginning.