PM meets Sonia, cabinet reshuffle buzz grows louder

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

NEW DELHI - Congress president Sonia Gandhi Tuesday met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for nearly two hours amid a growing buzz about an imminent reshuffle of the union council of ministers.

Gandhi, who heads the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA), met Manmohan Singh at his official 7, Race Course Road residence in New Delhi. She was accompanied by her political secretary Ahmed Patel.

The meeting further fuelled speculation about a likely ministerial reshuffle later this week. On Tuesday, Manmohan Singh met President Pratibha Patil and the issue of cabinet reshuffle figured in the discussions, it is learnt.

The president’s office Monday, however, said that the two held discussions on issues of “national and international importance”. The presidential spokesperson said the issues included the upcoming budget session, price rise and matters related to internal security.

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, besides science and technology.

The resignation of Shashi Tharoor (who was minister of state for external affairs) and the shifting of Prithviraj Chavan (who was minister of state in the Prime Minister’s Office) as the Maharashtra chief minister over the last few months have also created vacancies in the council of ministers.

The shake-up, according to sources, will be minor in nature and is unlikely to involve the top four ministers - Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, Home Minister P. Chidambaram and Defence Minister A.K. Antony.

Some young party MPs may be inducted into the government and some ministers could be brought back into the organisation.

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.

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