With textiles minister Dayanidhi Maran resigning over the spectrum scam, the focus has shifted to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's bid to refurbish his cabinet's image through a reshuffle of portfolios next week.
Besides filling vacancies, the PM and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi are said to be in favour of unburdening some ministers who hold more than one portfolio.
The PM is also keen that Congress nominees handle key infrastructure portfolios for better results.
Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee and the Congress president's political secretary, Ahmed Patel, met Gandhi after Maran's exit on Thursday.
The PM is said to have reservations about making a re-entry.
In 2009, he'd succeeded in persuading DMK chief M Karunanidhi not to press for Baalu's inclusion because of his unsatisfactory record as surface transport minister.
The DMK's SS Palanimanickam, MoS for finance, could be elevated while TKS Elangovan and AKS Vijayan could be made MoSes.
"Karunanidhi's party can have new ministers but Congress wants to drive a hard bargain for portfolios," Congress sources said.
Congress ministers Kapil Sibal, Vilasrao Deshmukh, Vayalar Ravi and Salman Khurshid, who hold two portfolios each, are likely to be relieved of one.
Congress circles are also waiting to see if health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and social justice minister Mukul Wasnik, both party general secretaries too, are relieved of one of their responsibilities.
Law minister M Veerappa Moily's next role is also under discussion but it is likely that Oscar Fernandes - both Kannadigas - will get a ministerial berth.
Congress ministers such as Kantilal Bhuria, BK Handique and MS Gill might be dropped.