Rearranging or reshuffling coalition regimes is always a complex affair.
In that limited sense, the UPA-II is no exception.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh does intend giving his ministerial team a new look. But if sources in the know are to be believed, the media is “thinking ahead” of the Premier who’s still some distance away from giving shape to his ideas.
The pre-reshuffle consultations Singh has always had with Congress president Sonia Gandhi are yet to gather steam, leaving “all intelligent thinking” on the subject in the realm of conjecture. In certain cases, even key allies have to be brought on board. The PM’s keen for instance on a change in the Information and Technology Ministry where the DMK’s A Raja is facing allegations of graft in the allocation of 2G spectrum. But the IT minister’s removal wouldn’t be as much the result of the prime ministerial prerogative as of DMK chief M Karunanidhi’s malleability to the proposed change.
“The issue isn’t yet clinched. The Domocles’ sword is over Raja’s head,” said a knowledgeable source.
A set of ministers from the Congress stock and other allied parties also reportedly figure on the PM’s list of potential bench-warmers. The final line-up of discards and new entrants will depend on a host of issues: accommodation of new allies, if any; the Congress’ organisational requirements; right-sizing responsibilities of existing ministers and caste, religious and regional representation.
The NCP’s Sharad Pawar who heads three departments including Agriculture, has already asked the PM to lessen his burden. The Congress’s Prithviraj Chauhan is another Maratha who straddles four departments, including the PMO.
A minister of state from the allies’ quota has attracted flak in his current job and is open to leaving the key portfolio if elevated to Cabinet rank.
Wouldn’t such changes amount to rewarding incompetence, even corruption?
“That’s one way to restrict or wipe out taint,” averred a UPA official.
Another option is to assign them party-work — as is being contemplated to tackle a Congress minister messing around with an infrastructure portfolio.
Pragmatic considerations will eventually determine as to how much of it is accomplished and how much left undone. Until early June, the PM had hoped to wield the broom before Parliament’s Monsoon Session. That schedule is a trifle suspect now.