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Cabinet reshuffle in the offing, PM-Sonia meet likely

delhi Updated: Sep 24, 2012 13:16 IST

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With speculation rife in Congress over cabinet reshuffle, Congress president Sonia Gandhi is expected to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday.

With Trinamool Congress walking out of the UPA, a reshuffle-cum-expansion of the Union council of ministers is likely to be effected this week.

According to Congress sources, a reshuffle could be a substantial affair with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh giving ample hint of pursuing the reforms agenda.

Road and transport minister CP Joshi has already been given additional charge of the Railways, a key ministry which has come to Congress kitty after 16 years. The talk is that efficiency will be the watch word in the reshuffle exercise especially in infrastructure ministries to get the economy going.

With six ministers from TMC leaving, two to three Congress leaders from West Bengal are expected to be accommodated. The names of Deepa Dashmunshi and Adhir Choudhury, known detractors of TMC chief Mamata Banerjee and West Bengal PCC chief Pradeep Bhatacharjee are doing the rounds.

A reshuffle of the AICC secretariat is also on the cards and Amethi MP Rahul Gandhi is expected to get a larger responsibility in the organisation.

The exercise could see some of the ministers holding charges of two ministries losing one of the portfolios.

Beni Prasad Verma, Kapil Sibal, C P Joshi, Veerappa Moily and Vayalar Ravi are some of the ministers holding charge of two ministries.

With death of Vilasrao Deshmukh, there is a vacancy for a cabinet minister from Maharashtra.

Three to four young leaders close to Rahul are also likely to be inducted. Names of Meenakhshi Natarajan and Manik Tagore are in circulation.

Tourism minister Subodh Kant Sahai and coal minister Sriprakash Jaisawal have come under attack from the Opposition on the coal block allocation issue.

There are two vacancies after representatives of DMK - A Raja and Dayanidhi Maran - resigned following controversies in the 2G scam.

Changes in the government and the party could be taking place in tandem as there is a possibility that some of the ministers would be drafted for party work, sources said.

They said the exercise could be a major affair as the team would be leading the party in the next Lok Sabha elections.

The reshuffle could take place either this week or next month.

The likely date of reshuffle is either September 25 or 28 as President Pranab Mukherjee will visit Kashmir on September 26 and 27. The period from September 30 to October 15 is considered inauspicious as per Hindu calendar.

The party sources also said that the reshuffle could see some ministers being drafted for party work or given organisational responsibilities along with their work in the government as part of preparations for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

The sources said that the reshuffle could take place just before or after President Pranab Mukherjee's visit to Jammu and Kashmir beginning Wednesday.

In case it is delayed, it could take place by the middle of next month as the pitrapaksha period (not favoured for new beginnings by many Hindus) would begin by the end of this month.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi will give final shape to the cabinet reshuffle after talking to allies of the United Progressive Alliance government.

"This would probably be the last major reshuffle before the 2014 elections. The changes will be made keeping the next elections in view," a Congress leader said.

The sources said that the Congress would strive towards result-oriented governance in the next few months with thrust on the performance of ministries dealing with infrastructure to boost growth.

The Congress is yet to deliver on some of its poll promises made in 2009 manifesto.

(With inputs from HT, PTI, IANS)