Telecommunications and Information Technology Minister A Raja could lose his portfolio in a Cabinet reshuffle Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is expected to undertake in the run-up to Parliament’s Monsoon session beginning July.
The reasoning behind Raja’s removal — which well-placed sources termed as imminent barring last-minute glitches — wasn’t immediately known. But the DMK nominee’s continuation in the ministry would provide the Opposition ‘valid ground’ to question the impartiality of the CBI probe into allegations of corruption in the allocation of 2G spectrum.
Be that as it may, the ground rules of coalition politics make it incumbent on the PM to take DMK chief M. Karunanidhi’s concurrence before shifting Raja out of the IT ministry or dropping him from his ministerial team. He can discuss the issue on equal-terms with Karunanidhi whose government in Tamil Nadu depends on the Congress support.
At his May 24 press conference, the PM neither defended Raja nor accepted the charges levelled against him. He promised nevertheless to act if something incriminating emerged in the CBI investigation: “If I come to know that there is any involvement at any level in corruption, we will take action.”
It is early days still to predict whether the Congress’s understandings with smaller parties for the Rajya Sabha polls will find reflection in Singh’s council of ministers. Hindustan Times has learnt the proposed “mid-sized” reshuffle might see induction of new faces, including perhaps a Muslim in the Cabinet rank.
The Congress is under pressure for increasing the community’s share as Ghulam Nabi Azad, the party’s sole Muslim Cabinet Minister in Singh’s team, is perceived to be representing Jammu and Kashmir where he served as Chief Minister.
Among the Muslim hopefuls in the senior slot is Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairperson Rahman Khan.
A change in his work-profile would depend on the ruling combine’s ability to retain the elected office he’d vacate in the House where the UPA lacks a majority.
The reshuffle will also afford Singh an opportunity to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor. Another junior slot could go to Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress whose choice surprisingly includes, besides her party MPs, former Union Minister and JD (U) leader Digvijay Singh, who’s now an
Independent member of the Lok Sabha.
Often in trouble for his proclivity to speak out of turn, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh’s fate rests on the renewal of his Rajya Sabha membership.
And in that, Congress president Sonia Gandhi will have as much say as the PM. On a recent visit to China, the voluble Minister deeply embarrassed New Delhi by questioning its distrust of Chinese companies seeking to enter the Indian market.