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HindustanTimes Tue,23 Sep 2014

Reshuffle looms as Sibal gets law, Joshi railways

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, May 11, 2013
First Published: 13:49 IST(11/5/2013) | Last Updated: 01:00 IST(12/5/2013)

A day after the UPA government showed two of its senior ministers the door, it brought in replacements telecom minister Kapil Sibal in place of Ashwani Kumar in the law and justice ministry and transport minister CP Joshi for Pawan Kumar Bansal in the railway ministry.

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A cabinet reshuffle also looks imminent as 11 vacancies have come up in the union council of ministers.

The union cabinet can have a maximum 82 members. After the latest round of resignations, there are 30 cabinet ministers, 12 ministers of state (independent charge) and 29 ministers of state.

Congress sources said the reshuffle - which would involve Congress nominees only - might take place before the fourth anniversary of the UPA 2 government on May 22.

"The party would like to put the new team in place before the birthday celebrations," a senior leader said.

The last cabinet reshuffle took place in October 2012.

The temporary allocation of portfolios marks a first stint in the law ministry for Sibal - a key legal brain for the UPA.

Joshi was railway minister for a brief period last year after the Trinamool Congress withdrew support to the UPA.

Sibal's name had started doing the rounds almost immediately after Friday's double resignation

But Joshi's call-up was a surprise to many, not least the minister himself who was about to board a flight to Austria at Delhi airport when the call from PMO came in.

Both the men they replaced professed their innocence on Saturday.

Bansal, who went back to his constituency Chandigarh with his family, insisted yet again that he had nothing to do with the cash-for-post scam that has landed his nephew and several others in CBI custody.

Ashwani Kumar, accused of interfering with the ongoing CBI probe into the coal blocks allocation scam, held a press conference at his residence in the Capital.

"I have done so (resigned) to put an end to an unnecessary controversy in a matter that is before the honourable Supreme Court and in which no adverse comments have been made against me," he said.

Congress sources said the cabinet reshuffle would keep in mind not just the 2014 general elections but also the upcoming assembly elections.

With Kumar and Bansal now gone, the Opposition BJP trained its guns on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, suggesting that an "honest introspection" would leave him with no option but to step down.

Rejecting the BJP's demand for the PM's removal and using the removal of the two tainted former minister to its advantage, the Congress pointed out that it did not compromise with corruption.

"The Congress takes action. These things are not tolerated in the party under the leadership of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi. History is witness to it. What has been proved from yesterday's action is that we don't believe in mere words," spokesperson Bhakta Charan Das said.


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