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Speculation on cabinet reshuffle intensifies
NEW DELHI, JUN 27 (IANS):
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Published on 28 Jun. 2011 1:06 AM IST
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Speculation is rife in government and political circles about an impending cabinet reshuffle to bring a new look to the 25-month-old UPA-II government battered by a series of corruption scandals.
The speculation has gained ground after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, the ‘Top Two’, met three times in the past two weeks to discuss the issue. Their latest meeting was on Sunday, said well informed sources.
“Other than there will be a reshuffle in the next two weeks, nothing more can be said with certainty,” a Congress leader, who wanted to remain unidentified, told IANS.
A major speculation is whether there will be change or any drop of the ‘Big Four’ ministers- Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Defence Minister A.K. Antony, Home Minister P. Chidambaram and External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna.
There are several names in circulation for the post in case Krishna is shifted. The names of Chidambaram, Human Resources Development Minister Kapil Sibal, Minority Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma, Punjab Governor Shivraj Patil, who is trying to make a comeback to politics, and Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad are among those.
Several low-performing or older ministers may be dropped, Congress sources said. Some of the ministers mentioned in this context include M.S. Gill, Kantilal Bhuria and B.K. Handique.
Several young ministers will be promoted or given important portfolios, Congress circles said. They include some of Rahul Gandhi’s close colleagues and ministers of state Jyotiraditya Scindia, R.P.N Singh and Sachin Pilot.
The reshuffle could either be before July 2, prior to President Pratibha Patil leaving for her week-long annual stay in Hyderabad, or after her return, the sources added.
With the monsoon session of parliament beginning Aug 1, the new ministers need time to familiarise with their ministries, it is being pointed out.
Chidambaram made a pitch for a younger cabinet when he told NDTV that “we should have ministers, including cabinet ministers, in their late 40s, early 50s” and that those over 60, like himself, “should step back”.
The decision to drop or not to drop the controversial Textiles Minister Dayanidhi Maran will be another ticklish issue before the prime minister, Manmohan Singh. But it may not be easy to drop him unless the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) questions Maran or takes the next step in the probe, they added.
There will be more representation awaiting for Uttar Pradesh which goes to the polls early next year.
Minister of State Beni Prasad Verma may be elevated to a cabinet rank and Salman Khurshid, who was among the government interlocutors dealing with the Anna Hazare group on the Lokpal bill, may get a key ministry.
With Trinamool Congress leader and West Bengal chief minister, Mamata Banerjee pronouncing the party’s desire to retain the railway ministry, Mukul Roy or Dinesh Trivedi, both ministers of state may make it to the Rail Bhavan.
From among the allies, the Indian Union Muslim League wants its nominee E. Ahamed a promotion in reward of its sterling performance in the recent Kerala assembly polls.

 
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