A major reshuffle, both in the government as well as in the Congress party, is in the works. When? No one is quite sure.
With the Trinamool Congress withdrawing support to the government, the Congress is scheduled to hold a meeting of its working committee at 8:45 am tomorrow to discuss the Trinamool exit and the Congress’ ties with allies such as the Nationalist Congress Party and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. What view the party takes of the Samajwadi Party, a political adversary that bailed it out in a moment of crisis, would be significant.
The party is also likely to launch an attack on the Bharatiya Janata Party, though how it steers clear of corruption and price rise charges remains to be seen.
Trinamool Congress’s exit has led to many vacancies in the council of ministers. Though C P Joshi has taken additional charge of the railway ministry, five posts of ministers of state lie vacant. Besides, several Cabinet ministers hold dual charge —Kapil Sibal (telecom and human resource development); Salman Khurshid (law and minority affairs), Pawan Bansal (water resources and parliamentary affairs), Sharad Pawar (agriculture and food processing), Anand Sharma (textiles and commerce), Jairam Ramesh (drinking water & sanitation and rural development), Kumari Selja (culture and urban development) and Veerappa Moily (corporate affairs and power). Some of them are likely to be divested of at least one portfolio.
A government reshuffle would be followed by changes in the Congress, as assembly elections are due in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh at the end of the year, with elections in more states to follow.
A ministerial reshuffle could be held on September 29 (the day before an inauspicious period begins, according to the Hindu calendar) or after October 10, when two Lok Sabha by-elections are slated to be held—for the constituencies of Jangipur (West Bengal) and Tehri Garhwal (Uttarakhand).
President Pranab Mukherjee is scheduled to visit Jammu and Kashmir on September 26 and 27. His presence in Delhi is essential for a reshuffle.