A cabinet reshuffle is on the cards and it could happen before the winter session of Parliament commences in November. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh clearly indicated that now, after 16 months of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s second innings at the Centre, a reshuffling of portfolios would happen.
"I will certainly look at what options are available before the next session of Parliament,” he said, addressing senior editors of print publications in the Capital on Monday.
Besides indicating his decision to go for a reshuffle of his cabinet, the prime minister also said he was in favour of inducting youthful faces in his new team. “I would very much like to reduce the average age of my cabinet and I think more youthful leaders should come up.”
On whether there was any truth in speculation about his own term ending (and he being replaced by someone else) before that of the current government, Singh said he was “not thinking of retiring”.
“Politics is a competitive game,” the PM added with a smile, “and if some people think they would like to sit in my seat, surely, you cannot blame me for that.”
Refuting all reports of a ‘drift’ in the government — whether because of differences within the cabinet or between his government and the Congress party, Singh said it was “not a drift but a debate.”
He said differences between ministers or a disconnect between party functionaries was not necessarily a bad thing, and that such differences of opinion are a part of democracy. The Congress, he added, was a movement and right from the time of the late Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru there have been differences of opinion within cabinets. “What is necessary, however,” he said, “was a degree of cohesion within the cabinet.” He believed that his cabinet had that cohesion.
In fact, he said, compared to the period when the late Indira Gandhi was Prime Minister and had as her deputy, the late Morarji Desai, his cabinet had much fewer differences of opinion between ministers.
Asked about the image of the UPA II government being sullied by allegations of corruption against some of his ministers — both from the Congress as well as allied parties — Singh said it was true that corruption was a major challenge in Indian politics but that anyone who opposed any policy should not be condemned as being corrupt.
However, he said that he had "an obligation to take action in charges against his ministers”.
Referring to the telecommunications spectrum allocation issue in which the minister of the department concerned is facing charges, the PM said: “I did take account of what was appearing in the media and took adequate protection.” He declined to go into specifics since the case was sub-judice.