Manmohan meets president amid cabinet reshuffle reports

Monday, January 17, 2011

NEW DELHI - Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met President Pratibha Patil here Monday evening amid speculations of an imminent reshuffle of the union cabinet but officials said the upcoming budget session, rising prices, inflation and internal security were discussed.

The Prime Minister’s Office termed the meeting as “routine”.

A spokesperson for the president’s office said the two leaders in the 45-minute long meeting held discussions on issues of “national and international importance”.

The spokesperson said the issues included the upcoming budget session, price rise and matters related to internal security.

The meeting took place ahead of the parliament’s budget session and amid media speculations of a cabinet rejig.

There are reports that the prime minister may reshuffle his council of ministers as many senior ministers are holding more than one portfolio like Sharad Pawar — who holds agriculture, food and consumer affairs — and Kapil Sibal — who has human resource development, IT and communication, science and technology.

The resignation of Shashi Tharoor, and the shifting of Prithviraj Chavan as the Maharashtra chief minister over the last few months have also created vacancies in the council of ministers.

A reconstitution of the Congress Working Committee, the party’s top decision-making body, is also on the way and reports suggest that some senior ministers may be drafted for party work.

But the Congress Monday remained non-committal about any proposed changes in the government and party’s organisation.

“Cabinet reshuffle is prerogative of the prime minister and formation of Congress Working Committee is the prerogative of the party president,” Congress spokesman Manish Tewari told reporters.

Tewari also did not comment to a question about the party following the “one person one post” norm in making changes. He said all such issues were the prerogative of party chief Sonia Gandhi.

There has been talk about a reshuffle in the Congress circles for the past few days, but the party has declined to comment on the issue.

Several Congress ministers in the government are holding party responsibilities as incharge of states. They include Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mukul Wasnik, M. Veerappa Moily, A.K. Antony and V. Narayanasamy.

Congress sources said that Sonia Gandhi will reconstitute the CWC as she was authorised to nominate it at the All India Congress Committee (AICC) session in November.

There has been speculation about some young party MPs being inducted into the government and some ministers being brought back into the organisation.

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