Cabinet reshuffle likely on Friday
The central government is likely to announce the cabinet reshuffle on Friday, befor prime minister Manmohan Singh leaves for a three-nation tour on Sunday. This will be the first rehuffle of the UPA-II ministry since it's induction in June last year.
The prime minister had earlier spoken of a possible reshuffle before the commencing of the winter session of Parliament during his meeting with the editors of major news organisations. Minister of state for parliamentary affairs and for personnel and public grievances Prithviraj Chavan had already informed UPA allies of the impending reshuffle but had left it to the PM to discuss cabinet hopefuls and exits with the leaders of these parties.
The reshuffle deadline reportedly was arrived at after the Congress president and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi asked the prime minister to announce the new cabinet before the one-day All India Congress Committee conference on November 2 where she will be announcing the new Congress Working Committee (CWC) team.
The prime minister is also under pressure to announce the reshuffle as he will hardly have any time left after he arrive from his week-long tour - the AICC conference, followed by Diwali on November 5 and US president Barack Obama's visit from November 7 ensure a packed schedule. In case he does delay the announcement, he will have to wait till the end of the winter session.
An early reshuffle will also allow the new ministers and those shifted to new ministries to acquaint themselves well with their ministries before the winter session starts on November 9.
The external affairs ministry has had a vacancy since the minister of state (MoS) Shashi Tharoor was forced to resign over the IPL equity scandal. It is being speculated that railways MoS E Ahmed might succeed Tharoor as railway minister Mamata Banerjee wants to bring in one of her trusted aides as a junior minister in the ministry. Ahmed was the external affairs MoS in UPA-I.
Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar might also cede a ministry as he had earlier requested the PM to reduce his burden of having to handle the food, civil supplies and consumer affairs portfolio. Prithivaraj Chavan may also be relieved of some of his portfolios by new, young inductees. Chavan currently holds the portfolios of science and technology ministry, ministry of personnel, parliamentary affairs ministry and ministry of earth sciences aside from being the minister of state for the prime minister's office (PMO). Rural development minister C P Joshi may also cede the panchayati raj ministry he currently holds to a newcomer.
There is mounting pressure on the PM from within the government to shift greenhorn environment minister Jairam Ramesh out of the ministry as he has denied clearances to many government and private projects which violate environment laws.
Major shifts in the reshuffle will depend on the assessment of performance of the ministries conducted by the PMO. Howvere, the PMO confirmed neither the possible reshuffle date nor the assessment-linked shifts.