Signalling a marked shift from its stand, the Samajwadi Party on Friday indicated it was open to accepting cabinet berths in the UPA government.
A minor cabinet reshuffle is likely early next month ahead of Parliament’s monsoon session starting on August 11.
Questioned on the issue of joining the cabinet, party general secretary Amar Singh said: “I am a humble party worker. These are issues that ought to be addressed to Sonia Gandhi and Mulayam Singh Yadav”. Asked about cabinet portfolios the SP would prefer, Singh said his party did not intend to create friction with any of UPA’s coalition partners. Formal or informal consultations between the SP and the Congress have not taken place, Singh said. He also denied having asked for the dismissals of Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and Petroleum Minister Murli Deora. “We had some reservations on policy issues and those we retain”, he said.
The position articulated by Singh on Friday is at striking variance from the party’s earlier rejection of joining the government. “We are asking neither for money nor cabinet berths. We will provide issue based outside support to the Manmohan Singh government”, Singh had told HT on July 4. Refusing to confirm or deny the speculations, SP leader Mohan Singh said the media was free to guess what it wanted.
Sources said no formal proposal had been received from the SP. Presently, there is just one vacancy in the Union cabinet and the Congress might have to drop some of its own ministers to accommodate the SP. Whenever the cabinet is expanded, the Congress will need to accommodate Shibu Soren, who has demanded a minister of state portfolio.
There are indications that the Congress would not be able to offer more than three cabinet berths. “Given our parliamentary strength, we should get 11 cabinet berths, but it is another matter that we are not asking for anything”, a senior SP leader had earlier said. There is speculation the SP might pitch for nine berths.