Cabinet expansion: Kiran to meet Sonia

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy is expected to meet Congress President Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi on Thursday amidst speculation that he may seek her permission for expansion of his Cabinet.

If not a full-scale expansion, the Chief Minister will have to induct at least two members of the erstwhile Praja Rajyam into the Cabinet as per the understanding at the time of the party’s merger with Congress.

Tirupati MLA Chiranjeevi, who was previously the founder-president of Praja Rajyam Party, had said it would be “appropriate” if three of his MLAs were given Cabinet posts — one each from Telangana, Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra regions.

For the time being, however, only two of Chiranjeevi’s MLAs are likely to be accommodated in the Cabinet, Congress sources indicated.

Kiran Kumar will reach New Delhi late tonight and possibly meet AICC general secretary, in charge of AP affairs, Ghulam Nabi Azad.

Expansion of the state Cabinet has been long overdue as about nine slots are vacant for several months now. Infact, Kiran Kumar did not get a chance to expand or reshuffle his Cabinet after he constituted it on December 1, 2010 — a week after he became Chief Minister.

Of the existing ministers, three resigned for different reasons over the past few months.

Now, the Chief Minister is keen to drop the controversial Textiles Minister P Shanker Rao who has been causing a lot of embarrassment to the government through his acts.

Shanker Rao, a Dalit leader from Telangana region, made allegations of corruption against some ministers — Home Minister P Sabita Indra Reddy and Excise Minister M Venkata Ramana Rao in particular — as well as the Chief Minister. He has also not been seeing eye-to-eye with the Chief Minister and losing no opportunity to take a dig at the latter.

Kiran Kumar is also expected to seek the high command’s nod for axing Shanker Rao, Congress sources said.

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