The much-talked about expansion-cum-reshuffle of the Union Council of Ministers could be held this week or after July 8. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi have held extensive talks on the issue after her return from abroad last fortnight.
Sources said there was, however, no meeting between Gandhi and Singh over the issue yesterday. They, however, said the reshuffle could take place
either on July 1 or July 2 and if it could not take place then due to some reasons, the same could take place after President Pratibha Patil’s return from her Southern sojourn on July 8.
While the Prime Minister had sometime back himself spoken of a “more expansive” exercise, it is still unclear whether it would affect the four top ministries — Finance, Home, Defence and External Affairs. There was speculation about the continuance of External Affairs Minister S M Krishna
in the ministry.
Ministers like Kapil Sibal are holding more than one portfolio. While there are some vacancies including that created by the resignation of A Raja in the wake of the 2G spectrum scam and Prithviraj Chavan, who became Chief Minister of Maharashtra.
The talk is that the DMK could utilise the opportunity to drop beleaguered Textile Minister Dayanidhi Maran. There are also talks of elevation of some of the ministers including Beni Prasad Verma of Uttar Pradesh. The key Hindi state goes to elections next year. Verma who is currently Minister of State (Independent charge) could get a cabinet rank. He had been a Cabinet minister in the United Front government.
In view of the UP elections, Cabinet Minister Salman Khurshid could get some better portfolio than the Water Resources Ministry he holds. Union Minister Kantilal Bhuriya, who has been made Madhya Pradesh PCC chief, is expected to be asked to devote full time to organization work.
There is uncertainty about continuance of Virbhadra Singh and B K Handique as Union Ministers. The talk in Andhra Pradesh is that cinestar Chiranjeevi, whose Praja Rajyam has merged with Congress, could also join the Union Cabinet. Since he is not a member of either House, the leadership would have to find a seat for him in Rajya Sabha in next six months.
The possibility of reshuffle gained momentum after the victory of Mamata Banerjee, who became the Chief Minister of West Bengal, and resigned as Railway Minister at the Centre. There is speculation that her party colleague Mukul Roy, who has been given additional charge of Minister of State in the Railway, will be elevated to the Cabinet rank in the Railway Ministry.
Union Ministers Mukul Wasnik and Ghulam Nabi Azad, who are also AICC general secretaries may also see change in their responsibilities. The government is also expected to appoint some Governors and top bureaucrats in some of the key ministries in the next few weeks.
In Tamil Nadu, S S Barnala has completed his tenure as Governor of the state and the Centre may be looking at a new candidate.