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New look cabinet, Cong on anvil

delhi Updated: Sep 08, 2010 01:45 IST
Saroj Nagi

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's intention to reduce the average age of his cabinet through a reshuffle before the November 7 Parliament session is likely to be in concert with the changes Sonia Gandhi may bring in her team of general secretaries and other officebearers following her election as Congress president.

There is no word on the possible ministerial inductees, but the need to induct fresh blood is evident as virtually the entire top echelon will have to call it a day by the time the UPA completes its term in 2014.

For instance, of the 26 (out of 32) Congress cabinet ministers in Singh's team, two-thirds are 60 plus. Of these, nine, including Singh, are septuagenarians — S M Krishna, Virbhadra Singh, B K Handique, Pranab Mukherjee, M S Gill, Murli Deora, Vayalar Ravi and Veerappa Moily.

The sexagenarians in the Cabinet include, A K Antony, P Chidambaram, Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sushilkumar Shinde, Jaipal Reddy, Ambika Soni, Kamal Nath, P K Bansal, Kapil Sibal and Ghulam Nabi Azad.

"India's population is getting increasingly younger. In the party, Amethi MP Rahul Gandhi is making a conscious effort to broadbase and democratise the Youth Congress by bringing fresh faces. We need to reflect this in government too," said a Congress leader.

The timing of the reshuffle is seen as appropriate as Singh can take stock of the performance of his ministers.

Gandhi is also expected to make changes in her team to strengthen the organisation for the series of state elections and the 2014 Lok Sabha polls which most analysts believe could mark Rahul Gandhi's grand entry into governance if the Congress comes back to power.

Gandhi's election as party chief has set in motion the process of reconstitution of the party at the AICC level downwards. There are half a dozen ministers who are doubling up as general secretaries or state in charges.

Changes are expected in the Congress Working Committee and Pradesh Congress Committees — with almost every state unit expected to authorise her to nominate the state presidents — culminating with a plenary, possibly in December.

Mumbai is likely to be the venue for the plenary or for the celebrations of the party completing 125 years. The party celebrates its foundation day on December 28.