PM to inject fresh blood into cabinet

PM to inject fresh blood into cabinet

The contours of the impending Cabinet reshuffle were shaped after a meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday morning. The swearing-in ceremony of the new ministers will take place at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

According to sources, ministers of state (MoS) with independent charges Jairam Ramesh (Environment and Forests), Salman Khursheed (Minority Affairs and Corporate Affairs) and Praful Patel (Civil Aviation) may be elevated to Cabinet rank. Minister of state for Agriculture, K V Thomas, may be made MoS with independent charge.

MoS (Parliamentary Affairs) V Narayanaswamy may be brought to the Prime Minister’s Office while MoS (Commerce), Jyotiraditya Scindia may be given the independent charge of corporate affairs.

Kishore Chandradeo and Hanumantha Rao (both from Andhra Pradesh), T R Baalu of DMK, Sudip Bandopadhyay of Trinamool Congress and Manish Tiwari, Rajiv Shukla, K C Venugopal, Begum Noor, Lakshmi Sadhu and Charandas Mahant (all from Congress) may be the new faces in the Cabinet.

The revamp may see heads of some non-performing ministers roll and a couple of senior ministers shifted to party work. Senior ministers Vilasrao Deshmukh (Heavy Industries), C P Joshi (Rural Development), B K Handique (Mines), M S Gill (Sports), Kantilal Bhuria (Tribal Affairs) could face the axe for non-performance. Along with Deshmukh and Joshi, Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni, too, may be assigned party work.
If Khursheed gets law, M Veerappa Moily, who currently holds the portfolio, could be shifted out, possibly to human resource development in place of Kapil Sibal, who is set to continue as telecom minister. However, there is also a possibility that Sibal may continue to hold both HRD and telecom.

In the reshuffle, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar may shed consumer affairs, one of the three portfolios he holds. There are two vacancies in the UPA government following the resignations of former telecom minister A Raja and former minister of state for external affairs, Shashi Tharoor.

While the DMK—a major UPA ally—is reported to have sought filling of the post left vacant by Raja’s resignation, two other partners—Trinamool Congress and Nationalist Congress Party—want to increase their strength in the ministry by one each.

Making his intentions clear, NCP supremo Sharad Pawar said his party already had a request pending with the Centre for three ministerial berths and had not asked for anymore.

“We have no suggestions to make with regards to the Cabinet reshuffle. We have not said anything about increasing quota. We should get three berths and are not asking for a fourth seat,” said Pawar. Now, the NCP has a strength of two in the ministry—Pawar and Praful Patel.

The Singh-Sonia meeting was the sixth they had over the last one week to finalise the reshuffle exercise. Sonia was accompanied by her political secretary Ahmed Patel during the discussion.

Later in the evening, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee met Gandhi. Deshmukh, Veerbhadra Singh, Handique and MPs Janardhan Dwivedi and Navin Jindal also met her.

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