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With most ministers juggling dual portfolios at the Centre, talks of an imminent Cabinet reshuffle is gaining momentum in United Progressive Alliance (UPA) circles. Only two major portfolios — finance and home — had been allocated before the monsoon session of Parliament to P Chidambaram and Sushilkumar Shinde, respectively.
“It is obvious the (Cabinet) reshuffle exercise is half done. The matter will be taken up after September 7, once the monsoon session of Parliament concludes; most likely within a fortnight. Even the Prime Minister’s website, if you observe, displays no list of Cabinet ministers because the reshuffle exercise is yet to be completed,” said a senior Congress leader.
A Cabinet minister, speaking to Business Standard, said, “There is a long list of ministers with dual charge, and the government is aware it is stepping into election mode; plans and programmes need to be implemented swiftly. So, dedicated ministers need to be handling portfolios.”
K Rahman Khan, Rajya Sabha MP and former deputy chairman of the Upper House, might be handed the minority affairs portfolio, according to sources. At present, Law Minister Salman Khurshid is juggling both the portfolios.
Telecom and HRD minister Kapil Sibal, who took over the telecom ministry at a crucial juncture, has succeeded in handling the portfolio very well. He is likely to retain the telecom ministry, but he could be divested of the HRD ministry, said a senior Congress leader acquainted with party functioning.
Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh is a likely contender for the HRD portfolio. Sibal is one among select ministers considered close to the prime minister.
The power portfolio, which has been handed over to Veerappa Moily in addition to his corporate affairs portfolio, is likely to be headed by a new minister. The list of Congress leaders keen on handling this high-profile ministry runs long.
Congress is also looking at immediately addressing leadership issues in the states, especially those which are ahead of the 2014 general election. “The party has just about managed to settle the leadership issue in Himachal Pradesh by placating former Union minister Virbhadra Singh, who has been made pradesh Congress incharge. Himachal goes into polls in November (Singh had resigned after allegations of graft were levelled against him). Now, we have to look into states like Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka on this issue,” said a senior Congress leader.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy, in the words of a Cabinet minister, has been “woefully inadequate” and “he is in for a replacement”. If the Congress high command is to decide on a national leader taking charge, then Jaipal Reddy, Union petroleum minister, is likely to fit the bill. But given the contentious state of affairs, with demands for Telengana statehood and the successful resistance posed by rebel Jagan Mohan Reddy, a central leader is unlikely to be keen on taking charge of the state. In this scenario, a local leader may be chosen.
Other Union ministers with dual charge include Anand Sharma with commerce & industry and textiles; Vayalar Ravi with earth sciences, overseas Indian affairs and now MSME as well. These ministries are in the pipeline to be reallocated.
The UPA will also have to accommodate requests from coalition partners like the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). While it is almost certain that Agatha Sangma could be dropped as MoS, the next NCP leader to make his way into the Cabinet appears to be Rajya Sabha member Tariq Anwar. The DMK, after the exit of A Raja and Dayanidhi Maran, is said to be keen on seeing TR Baalu as a Cabinet minister.