Union cabinet reshuffle on cards

KT NEWS SERVICE. Dated: 9/16/2012 1:41:02 AM

Azad may lose his berth, may be part of AICC team

NEW DELHI, Sep 15: Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad may be shifted from health to petroleum, though strong chances are that he will be moved
out of government to be part of the new AICC team which Congress president Sonia Gandhi is in the process of selecting to prepare for
the 2014 elections. Vayalar Ravi is another minister tipped to leave the government to work for the party.
With the reforms agenda off his chest by throwing open floodgates for foreign funds to spruce up economy, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gets
down now to create a new team of ministers with whom he will rule over the next 20 months until the elections, amid indications that the
reshuffle may come as early as the next week.
The Congress sources say his consultations with Sonia Gandhi in the matter are already over and the allies have also been sounded out to
give him names of the probable they would like inducted, leaving the final choice up to him.
Rahul Gandhi does not appear interested in joining the government as he wants to be a king-maker in pushing a couple of young faces into
the ministry. Jairam Ramesh, however, hopes he will change the mind and take over from him as the rural development minister. Jairam sees
himself as becoming the human resources development minister to let Kapil Sibal have more time as the telecom minister. Sibal's most education
reforms are stuck in Parliament and hence the PM may like him to get out.
Names of Meenakshi Natarajan from Madhya Pradesh, Jyoti Mirdha from Rajasthan, Manicka Tagore from West Bengal and party spokesman Manish
Tewari are in circulation as Rahul's candidates for the ministerial berths.
He, however, already has half a dozen in the ministry from his young brigade and hence the PM may pick up at the most just one from his
list and that lucky candidate may be Tewari, the Congress sources said. Those from Rahul's team to be promoted as cabinet ministers
are Sachin Pilot and Jyotiraditya Scindia, keeping in mind the role they can play in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh respectively in the
run-up to the Assembly elections.
The party sources doubt exit of any one from the big four -- Defence Minister A K Antony, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, Finance
Minister P Chidambaram and External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, but Sonia Gandhi may pluck Krishna out to return to Karnataka to prepare
the party for reclaiming power from the BJP.
Commerce Minister Anand Sharma, a favourite of 10 Janpath who has also earned laurels from the PM for aptly handling the ticklish FDI in
retails, has also placed himself as the possible new external affairs minister.
The Prime Minister will not have much difficulty in accommodating as many as eight as the Cabinet ministers since that many number of
ministers are presently holding the dual charge and he sees better performance if one minister handles one ministry. The only exception
may be Chidambaram who is indicated to get the additional charge of the ministry of corporate affairs from Veerappa Moily to let him
handle the power ministry efficiently.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, who is keen to return to the Centre, is Dr Manmohan Singh's favourite for the immensely useful
groundwork he had done with regards to the civilian nuclear deal with the United States as his minister of state. He is quite efficient but
could not handle the politicking in the state and hence the PM wants him here to take charge of a ministry of his choice as a cabinet
minister, sources say.
Besides Chavan, another chief minister likely to be inducted in the union cabinet is Andhra's Kiran Kumar Reddy, who too did not click in
the state. Petroleum Minister S Jairam Ramesh is under pressure to take charge of Andhra Pradesh and in that eventuality Ghulam Nabi Azad
may shift from health to petroleum, though strong chances are that he will be part of the new AICC team Sonia is in the process of selecting
to prepare for the 2014 elections. Vayalar Ravi is another minister tipped to leave the government to work for the party.
Former Rajya Sabha deputy chairman K Rahman Khan, who has been organising the Muslim MPs and leaders to rally on issues concerning
the Muslims, is tipped to get the minority affairs portfolio from Law Minister Salman Khurshid, though MoS in External Affairs E Ahamed is
also lobbying for it.
There was also speculation in the media for a while on Congress general secretary and chairman of the AICC media cell Janardan Dwivedi
joining the Cabinet with the possible portfolio of HRD Ministry or the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, but the Congress sources say
Sonia Gandhi told him that she can not spare him at present as he is among very few whom she trusts completely. Sources say Rahul was
pressing for letting Dwivedi out of the AICC since he has developed more clout in the party than anybody else.
Coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal, Tourism Minister Subodh Kant Sahay and Dr. S. Jagathrakshakan (MoS I&B) likely to be exited as they are
embroiled in the "coalgate" rocking the government and the PM wants a team with a clean image. Others who may leave the government are Steel
Minister Beni Prasad Verma for inefficiency and Agatha Sangma for campaigning for her father Purno A Sangma despite Pranab Mukherjee
being the UPA candidate in the presidential election. Nationalist Congress Party general secretary Tariq Anwar may fill Agatha's vacancy
while Telugu superstar Chiranjeevi, who merged his regional outfit into the Congress, is tipped to become MoS I&B.
Those tipped to be inducted in the ministry from Maharashtra are Vilas Muttemwar from Nagpur and Gurudas Kamat from Mumbai.
As regards the Trinamul Congress, Derek O'Brien and Kunal Ghosh are the front-runners for MoS, though it all depends on whether Mamata
Banerjee decides to stay put in the UPA or parts company on Tuesday in a meeting she has convened in Kolkata to review retail FDI, diesel
price hike and other decisions taken without taking her party into confidence.
If there are more berths to Trinamul, the PM may play a balancing act in West Bengal by inducting equal numbers from the Congress and in the
reckoning are Deepa Dasmunshi, wife of bedridden Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi, and the most active Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury.
There was also speculation for quite some time that Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit will be inducted in the Union Ministry and
that led Sports Minister Ajay Maken to put himself in the front to succeed her. The party sources, however, say Sonia wants Sheila
Dikshit to prove her charms to get the Congress re-elected in Delhi for the fourth consecutive term and as such she cannot be spared,
least for Maken who has not achieved the stature to eye for the CM's post.
The DMK is also waiting to get back the two Cabinet posts that were taken away from it, first with resignation of then telecom minister A
Raja and then dropping of Textiles Minister Dayanidhi Maran on the request of DMK supremo M Karunanidhi.
Sources in DMK say Karunanidhi insisted on getting the two portfolios the party had when a Congress emissary contacted him on Friday,
indicating to him that the reshuffle is taking place early next week.
Even while seeking probable names from the DMK for induction, Karunanidhi was politely told not to recommend T R Baalu or his
daughter Kanimozhi as the PM does not want scams continuing to haunt him.

 

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