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India Cabinet reshuffle likely

Publication Date : 17-09-2012


Post-diesel hike and announcement of big-bang reforms vis-a-vis allowing FDI (foreign direct investment) in key sectors, including retail, the Congress leadership and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh are now said to have focused attention towards a possible Cabinet reshuffle and change of chief ministers in a few Congress-ruled states.

The speculation of Rahul Gandhi being roped in the Cabinet has been almost ruled out even as there are talks about elevating some younger faces like Sachin Pilot and Jyotiraditya Scindia. 

There are already two vacancies from the DMK slot after A Raja and Dayanidhi Maran had to resign in less than two years.
There are also talks of shunting out ministers like Beni Prasad Verma.
The return of President Pranab Mukherjee to the Capital tomorrow from West Bengal after a four-day visit would actually set the ball rolling for swearing-in in the next few days.

Things would turn curious in the event Miss Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul colleagues quit the government. Besides, the Railway Minister, Mukul Roy, the party has five other Ministers of State.
Along with the Cabinet reshuffle, which could be aimed at giving thrust on performance in the run-up to the next parliamentary polls coming sooner rather than later, Congress sources also indicate about a change of Chief Ministers in key states like Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan.

In an effort to revamp the party’s poll strategy in the states and also in the party organisation at the AICC level, there is a possibility that a few ministers  may be shifted for organisational operations.

Sources indicate that while the “big-four” at the Central Cabinet, Home, Finance, Defence and External Affairs are unlikely to be disturbed, talks are on about sending Petroleum Minister Jaipal Reddy as the Andhra chief minister.

The change of guard in Maharashtra gained currency after former Sena leader-turned Congressman Narayan Rane met Congress president Sonia Gandhi. 

The present incumbent, Prithviraj Chavan, though hailed for probity, has been in the firing line of detractors as well as the ally NCP as the Sharad Pawar-led outfit has not been much comfortable with him.

Ministers like M Veerappa Moily and Kapil Sibal who hold more than one portfolio could be relieved of the additional charge.

The Corporate Affairs Minister Moily was handed over the portfolio of power after  Sushil Kumar Shinde was made the Home Minister in July. Similarly, Overseas Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi was given Science and Technology after the demise of Vilasrao Deshmukh.

The HRD Minister Kapil Sibal has been holding the Telecom portfolio after A Raja of DMK had to bow out of office in the wake of Spectrum scam in November 2010.

The Congress leadership is also mooting replacing Ashok Gehlot as the Rajasthan chief minister. 

Apparently, the AICC move on the chief ministers would come close on the heels of the detractors impressing the high command that the present chief ministers cannot successfully lead the party to victory in the next polls.

Assembly elections in Rajasthan are scheduled by the end of 2013 while in Andhra Pradesh they are to be held along with the Lok Sabha polls in 2014. 

Assembly polls in Maharashtra are scheduled by October 2014.

Andhra Pradesh was a Congress stronghold in recent past,  but the emergence of the YSR Congress as also the turmoil over Telanagana has seen the party battling crisis after crisis.

The spectacular victory in Andhra Pradesh in 2004 and 2009 Lok Sabha polls  had helped ensure Congress get into was the driver’s seat at the Centre ousting the  NDA and again returning to power in 2009.

“Only honesty will not do. We need competence too. Decisions have to be taken and decisions should also be seen to be taken,” is the refrain of Maharashtra chief minister’s detractors within Congress.

Leaders from Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan have also met Sonia Gandhi since her return from abroad. 

Among the central ministers, the shifting of Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh to other portfolio or to the party organisation is also doing the round. Besides Ramesh, ministers like Salman Khurshid and Ghulam Nabi Azad have also reportedly offered their services to the party organisation. 


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