Cabinet reshuffle Wednesday, new faces likely

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

NEW DELHI - In the first-ever reshuffle of the 19-month-old United Progressive Alliance (UPA)-II government scheduled for Wednesday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is likely to induct some new faces and send out some Congress ministers for party work.

The oaths of office and secrecy would be administered to the new ministers at 5 p.m. at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, official sources told IANS.

However, the official notification and invitation for the function is yet to be issued, the sources added.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi Tuesday met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for nearly two hours to finalise the reshuffle of the union council of ministers.

While there were different versions in the political circles about the nature of the reshuffle, it was clear that the “big four” in the cabinet - Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Defence Minister A.K. Antony, Home Minister P. Chidmabaram and External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna - will retain their portfolios.

The sources said that while DMK is likely to get a berth in place of former communications minister A. Raja, Trinamool Congress is also expected to get an additional ministership.

While Sharad Pawar’s portfolios of agriculture and food, consumer affairs and public distribution are likely to be split, the party may be compensated either by elevation of Minister of State for Civil Aviation (Independent Charge) Praful Patel to the cabinet or allotment of another portfolio.

Minority Affairs Minister and former Uttar Pradesh Congress chief Salman Khurshid’s elevation to cabinet rank appears almost certain as the party prepares to woo larger sections in the most populous state which goes to polls in 2012.

Khurshid may be given law portfolio with M. Veerappa Moily shifted to human resource development which is currently with Kapil Sibal, who also holds the communications and science and technology portfolio.

From West Bengal, which goes to polls in May, Trinamool Congress leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay is likely to be inducted.

From Kerala, K.C. Venugopal may find a place in the ministry. Venugopal is seen as a replacement from the Nair community for Shashi Tharoor, who had to resign last year in the wake of Kochi-Indian Premier League row.

From the DMK, the choice may be between former ministers T.R.Baalu or T.K.S. Elangovan.

From the agitation-hit Telangana region, former Andhra Pradesh Congress chief Keshava Rao may be inducted.

Among the other names doing the rounds are Congress spokespersons Manish Tewari and Jayanthi Natarajan, party’s chief whip in Lok Sabha Paban Singh Ghatowar and former minister Suresh Pachouri.

If there is a major reshuffle, several ministers including Kantilal Bhuria, Virbhadra Singh, B.K. Handique and Vilasrao Deshmukh may be drafted for party work. Sports Minister M.S. Gill may also be shifted.

Wednesday’s induction of new ministers will be followed by a reshuffle of portfolios.

The cabinet reshuffle will be followed by the constitution of a new Congress Working Committee which will include many of the ministers moved out.

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