Union Cabinet expansion gets stuck again

Union Cabinet expansion gets stuck again

TMC seeks one more berth; aspiring ministers stranded in Bengal, Punjab

Union Cabinet expansion gets stuck again

The delay has been caused by two reasons: first, the aspiring ministers are stuck in West Bengal and Punjab because of the cyclone-related relief work and violence, respectively. UPA leaders of both the states had requested for a postponement of the swearing in ceremony which was initially slated for Tuesday. The Cabinet expansion is now likely to be held on May 28.

The other reason is the continued jostling for space in the ministry. After insisting that she was not for bargaining for ministership, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee is said to have demanded one more post of Minister of State (MoS) for her party as against the agreed six. Congress sources, however, said the demand would be rejected.

In addition, NCP leader Sharad Pawar too is said to be demanding one more MoS post for his party. Besides, pressure is mounting from among Congress MPs seeking ministership.

The Congress, the UPA’s lead party, alone has 206 members in the Lok Sabha besides 70 in Rajya Sabha.

The Congress’ southern ally, the DMK, however, has resolved all its differences with the principal partner over its share in the ministry. The DMK first family arrived here on Monday, sans party patriarch M Karunanidhi, to witness the oath-taking of M K Azhagiri.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh continued their discussion regarding ministry-formation for the second successive day on Tuesday. Sonia, who drove to the prime minister’s residence, was accompanied by her political secretary Ahmed Patel.

Waiting for portfolio

While the prime minister has allocated portfolios to six cabinet ministers, the 13 cabinet ministers, who took oath along with the six on May 22, are yet to be given responsibilities. Thus, five days later, the ministers were still waiting to hear from the PM over their allocation of work. As regards Karnataka, Gulbarga MP M Mallikarjun Kharge continued to wait for a ministerial berth. The Dalit leader, who was a little miffed as he did not get ministership, made a trip to Bodh Gaya in Bihar over the weekend.

On Monday, a delegation of Congress leaders from Karnataka called on Ghulam Nabi Azad, in-charge of Karnataka in the AICC, to press for the inclusion of Kharge in the Union Cabinet. Among those who met him included H Vishwanath, MP, Opposition leader in the Legislative Council V S Ugrappa, former minister H K Patil and others.

Mamata takes charge in Kolkata
Union Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee assumed charge of the ministry on Tuesday at the Eastern Railway headquarters here instead of New Delhi to oversee the relief and rescue operations following the devastation left by cyclone Aila, reports DHNS from Kolkata.

Addressing newspersons  later, she announced a special monthly pass costing Rs 20 for those having a monthly income below Rs 500. The passes will be valid for a distance of 100 km and a special identity card will be issued to them.

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