PM meets Prez, fuels reshuffle speculation

NEW DELHI, January 17 (PTI): A reshuffle of the Union council of ministers with a few inductions is likely to take place later this week. An indication of this came after a meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Pratibha Patil on Monday evening. Though official sources described it as a routine meeting, indications were available that a rejig of the UPA ministry was possible later this week.
Sources said that the Prime Minister may utilise the opportunity to inject fresh blood. Ministers like Sharad Pawar and Kapil Sibal are holding more than one portfolio and are likely to shed some of them. There are some vacancies including that created by the resignation of A Raja, Prithviraj Chavan and Shashi Tharoor.
The feeling in the Congress was that major portfolios like finance, home, defence and external affairs may not be disturbed in the proposed exercise which is mainly aimed at filling up the vacancies.
Pawar, who holds agriculture, food and consumer affairs ministries, has earlier expressed his intention to shed some of his burden. Similarly, Sibal has HRD, telecom and science and technology, may shed science and technology. He is said to be passionate about retaining HRD in which he has initiated certain reforms and would like to pursue them. He is unlikely to be disturbed from telecom which was given to him after Raja’s resignation in the wake of 2G spectrum allocation scam.
Union ministers C P Joshi (rural development) and Vilasrao Deshmukh (heavy industry) may be drafted for party work. DMK, which has a vacancy in the cabinet after Raja’s exit, may get a berth. The name of T R Baalu, a former minister, is among those mentioned from the party as a replacement for Raja. Sudip Bandhopadhyay, a Trinamool Congress leader, may get a berth as a representative of the largest constituent after Congress in the UPA.
There has been no representation to three states in the Union ministry -- Chhattisgarh, Goa and Manipur. Congress President Sonia Gandhi had detailed deliberations with Singh more than twice in the last week, apparently to plan out the exercise, which would be the first after the UPA-II came to power in May 2009. A reconstitution of the AICC secretariat is also on the cards in which some ministers are expected to be drafted for party work.