The exit of A Raja from the union cabinet on Sunday and an equally surprising announcement giving the additional responsibility of telecom to HRD minister Kapil Sibal within 24 hours, seems to have pushed the much talked about reshuffle to January next year.
The ongoing winter session has already seen two ministers, Prithviraj Chavan and Raja leave Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s team, albeit for completely different reasons. But with Sibal getting additional charge of both the ministers within a week, immediate requirements seem to have been taken care of.
The highly speculative issue of a cabinet reshuffle has been talked about in political circles for months now, but it got a fresh impetus when the Prime Minister hinted in September that the exercise might happen before the winter session.
So far three ministers have resigned in the year-and-a-half since the UPA began its second innings in May last year, with former minister of state for external affairs Shashi Tharoor being the first casualty in April this year.
Though there is no firm word on it, many Congress leaders expect the reshuffle to take place in mid-January 2011 and in tandem with the changes the party president Sonia Gandhi makes in the AICC set-up ahead of the party’s plenary session in December.
Singh reportedly has been mulling a no-holds barred makeover of his team that includes a possible infusion of fresh blood, dropping the jaded ones, rejigging some portfolios, elevating some ministers and weeding out non-performers and controversial ones.
“Even within the Congress members in the team, it is so delicately balanced. It will be a difficult task to touch some senior leaders who are ailing or not performing up to expectations,” said a Congressman.
Among Singh’s pending jobs is addressing NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s request for lesser work. Facing flak over price rise and food inflation, the minister of agriculture, food and civil supplies and consumer affairs and public distribution, had some months back urged the Prime Minister to lessen his work load.