New Delhi: Union Law
Minister M. Veerappa Moily was amongst the leaders who called on
Congress president Sonia Gandhi Wednesday as speculation
intensified over the reshuffle of ministries by Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh later in the day.
The reshuffle Wednesday evening would be the first since the
United Progressive Alliance (UPA)-II government was installed 19
While no details were officially available, Congress insiders said
the prime minister was likely to induct some new faces, promote a
few others and send out some Congress ministers for party work.
The oaths of office and secrecy would be administered to the new
ministers at 5 p.m. at Rashtrapati Bhavan, official sources told
IANS. However, the official notification and invitation for the
function is yet to be issued.
The main question being discussed in political circles was whether
there would be changes in the infrastucture and industrial
portfolios, including power, highways and road transport, urban
development, steel and heavy industry.
"I think Sonia Gandhi and the prime minister have given serious
thought to fulfilling the developmental agenda of UPA-II and will
begin the changes today. The next instalment of cabinet changes
will be after the budget session, when the assembly poll results
will be also out," an office-bearer of the All India Congress
Committee (AICC) told IANS.
Sonia Gandhi met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Tuesday for nearly
Several ministers, including Virbhadra Singh, B.K. Handique and
Kantilal Bhuria, also met Sonia Gandhi Tuesday, fuelling
speculation that they may be asked to opt for party work.
While there were different versions about the nature of the
reshuffle, it appeared that the "big four" in the cabinet -
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Defence Minister A.K. Antony,
Home Minister P. Chidmabaram and External Affairs Minister S.M.
Krishna - would be left untouched.
Sources said the DMK was likely to get a berth in place of former
communications minister A. Raja and the Trinamool Congress was
also expected to get an additional ministerial berth.
While Sharad Pawar's portfolios of agriculture and food, consumer
affairs and public distribution are likely to be split since he
some months back had sought that them prime inister lighten his
burden, the party may be compensated either by elevation of
minister of state for civil aviation (independent charge) Praful
Patel to the cabinet or allotment of another portfolio.
Minority Affairs Minister and former Uttar Pradesh Congress chief
Salman Khurshid's elevation to cabinet rank appears almost certain
as the party prepares to woo larger sections in the most populous
state which goes to polls in 2012.
Khurshid may be given the law portfolio with Moily shifted to
human resource development, which is currently with Kapil Sibal,
who also holds the communications and science and technology
Jairam Ramesh and Srikant Jena are other two ministers of State
being considered for promotion, Congress circles said.
From West Bengal, which goes to polls in May, Trinamool Congress
leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay is likely to be inducted.
From Kerala, K.C. Venugopal may find a place in the ministry.
Venugopal is seen as a replacement from the Nair community for
Shashi Tharoor, who had to resign last year in the wake of
Kochi-Indian Premier League row.
From the DMK, the choice may be between former ministers T.R.Baalu
or T.K.S. Elangovan.
From the agitation-hit Telangana region, former Andhra Pradesh
Congress chief Keshava Rao may be inducted.
Among other names doing the rounds for a ministerial position are
Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari, party secretary Meenakshi
Natarajan, Tamil Nadu MP Manik Tagore and young parliamentarian
The cabinet reshuffle will be followed by the constitution of a
new Congress Working Committee which will include many of the
ministers moved out, party sources said.