All eyes are on the much-delayed Cabinet reshuffle that is expected to happen over the next ten days. A series of high-level political meetings have been taking place.
Speculation of an imminent Cabinet reshuffle gained fresh momentum on Tuesday with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi meeting President Pranab Mukherjee separately. According to sources, the Cabinet reshuffle can happen as early as on Friday or Saturday. Sources further said that the Congress is assessing the political situation in the country.
The meeting between the Prime Minister and the President lasted for almost one hour. However, there was no official word from Rashtrapati Bhawan as to what was discussed during the meeting. There has been speculation about reshuffle in the Cabinet and filling up of berths in the ministries left vacant by the resignation of Trinamool Congress and DMK representatives.
The end of 'pitr paksh', considered an inauspicious period by Hindus, and the beginning of the navaratra season, set abuzz reports that a change in the government was on the cards, possibly this week. There was no official word on what transpired at the meetings which fuelled fresh speculation about the changes in the Council of Ministers that could take place before Mukherjee leaves on October 20 for his ancestral home in Miriti in West Bengal for Durga Puja festivities.
The Prime Minister's meeting for an hour came in the morning before he left for Hyderabad on a day's visit, while Gandhi met Mukherjee in the evening for 40 minutes. There was no certainty over whether Rahul Gandhi, who is also likely to meet Mukherjee on Wednesday, would enter the government in the face of strong demands from the party men to assume a "larger" role.
There has been speculation about reshuffle in the Cabinet for quite some time now, especially after the exit of Trinamool Congress ministers both at the levels of Cabinet and Ministers of State levels. There have been berths vacated by DMK representatives A Raja and Dayanidhi Maran in the last two years after their names cropped in the 2G scam. However, DMK President M Karunanidhi has recently made clear that his party will not like to reclaim their lost berths.
Congress sources said that the reshuffle and induction could be largely from the party. There is speculation that some young faces, considered close to Rahul, like Manicka Tagore and Meenakshi Natarajan could be inducted into the council of ministers. Some among the young ministers like Sachin Pilot, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Jitin Prasada may get promoted to Cabinet rank or get independent charge as Minister of State. The exercise could see some of the ministers holding charges of two ministries losing one of the portfolios.
HRD Minister Kapil Sibal (Telecom), Road and Transport Minister CP Joshi (Railways), Law Minister Salman Khurshid (Minority Affairs) and Corporate Affairs Affairs Minister M Veerappa Moily (Power) and Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi (MSME, S and T and Earth Sciences).
With six ministers from TMC leaving, two to three Congress leaders from West Bengal are expected to be accommodated. The names of Deepa Dashmunshi and Adhir Choudhury, known detractors of TMC chief Mamata Banerjee and West Bengal PCC chief Pradeep Bhatacharjee are doing the rounds. A reshuffle of the AICC secretariat is also on the cards and Amethi MP Rahul Gandhi is expected to get a larger responsibility in the organisation.
With the death of Vilasrao Deshmukh, there is a vacancy for a cabinet minister from Maharashtra. Tourism Minister Subodh Kant Sahai and Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaisawal have come under attack from the Opposition on the coal block allocation issue. Changes in the government and the party could be taking place in tandem as there is a possibility that some of the ministers would be drafted for party work, sources said. They said the exercise could be a major affair as the team would be leading the party in the next Lok Sabha polls.
READ MORE ON Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, Cabinet Reshuffle, Pranab Mukherjee, Congress
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