Speculation rife over Cabinet reshuffle

Speculation rife over Cabinet reshuffle

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh

The grapevine within the ruling party is that a reshuffle that was apparently on card might be advanced after the request from Pawar.

The NCP chief also holds the food and civil supplies as well as consumer affairs and public distribution portfolios. He met the prime minister on Tuesday and later told journalists that he had requested Singh to “reduce his burden” in the government.
Pawar’s meeting with Singh came close on the heels of his taking over as the president of the International Cricket Council.

Sources in the Congress said the prime minister might seek to remove Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) leader A Raja from the Ministry of Telecom in the wake of the controversy over alleged corruption in allocation of 2G spectrum.  But the party was still not sure if it would be possible to get DMK chief and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi’s nod for the move against Raja.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee is understood to have recently held discussions with the DMK chief on the issue, but sources said the Congress high command was still waiting for the final word from Chennai.

New entrants

Rashtriya Lok Dal leader Ajit Singh is among the probable new entrants in the Union Cabinet and he might be given any of the portfolios that the NCP leader would like to be relieved of.

The Congress is keen to have a tie-up with the RLD as it feels that such an arrangement would help it win the support of the Jats and thus consolidate its position in western Uttar Pradesh, which comprises as many as 125 assembly seats in 22 districts.

With soaring prices of food and other essential commodities being the most talked-about failures of the UPA-II Government, Pawar had over the past one year repeatedly drawn flak from the Opposition as well as from within the Congress and the rest of the ruling coalition.

Though the veteran leader from Maharashtra might readily agree to quit the food and civil supplies portfolio, he is expected to do a hard bargain with the Congress for a greater representation of his party in the union Council of ministers. The NCP demands might also include elevation of Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Civil Aviation Praful Patel to a cabinet rank.

The Congress, according to the sources, will try to ensure better representation for its own leaders in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in the Council of Ministers.  The party will also possibly like to pick up someone from its own young brigade to fill the vacancy that was created after Shashi Tharoor had to resign as the Minister of State for External Affairs in April.

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