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PM to reshuffle Union Cabinet a day after Sonia rejigs Congress

Mallikarjun Kharge is likely to be shifted to railways ministry from the labour ministry, while Congress leader from Rajasthan Sis Ram Ola might be given charge of the surface transport ministry.Padding up for poll season

delhi Updated: Jun 17, 2013 16:13 IST
Union Cabinet,NDP,UPA

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will effect a cabinet reshuffle on Monday evening, official sources said. The swearing in of new ministers is scheduled for 5.30 pm at Rashtrapati Bhawan.

The exit of the erstwhile allies DMK and the TMC, as well as the resignations of Pawan Kumar Bansal, Ashwani Kumar, CP Joshi and Ajay Maken, have created vacancies in the cabinet.

Mallikarjun Kharge is likely to be shifted to railways ministry from the labour ministry, while Congress leader from Rajasthan Sis Ram Ola might be given charge of the surface transport ministry, previously held by CP Joshi.

Another MP from Rajasthan, Girija Vyas might step in as housing and urban poverty alleviation minister in place of Maken, who resigned Saturday.

The reshuffle-cum-expansion is expected to be utilised by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to fill several vacancies in his Council of Ministers.

The exercise will come one day after the overhaul of the Congress party apparatus in which Ajay Maken and CP Joshi along with Ambika Soni and Gurudas Kamat were brought in as general secretaries by the Congress party which dropped Union minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and Oscar Fernandes from these posts.

The names of Meenakshi Natarajan, considered close to party vice president Rahul Gandhi, and Fernandes are being mentioned in Congress circles for a possible berth in the Union Council of Ministers.

The reshuffle of the Council of Ministers is expected to be the last such exercise in UPA-II with Lok Sabha elections less than a year away. This is the second reshuffle since October last year.

Singh had earlier said that there were some vacancies and the issue of filling them up was being considered.

The latest vacancies in the Cabinet were created by the resignations of Union ministers PK Bansal and Ashwani Kumar.

Bansal quit as the Railways minister in May in the wake of bribery scandal involving his nephew and a Railway Board member.

Kumar resigned as the law minister following a controversy over vetting of a CBI probe report on coal blocks allocation scam.

Sonia Gandhi relied on a mix of youth and experience to take the party into 2014 general elections as she reconstituted the Congress Working Committee (CWC) and her team of office-bearers on Sunday.

The Congress revamp, which came a day ahead of the reshuffle of the council of ministers, bore a clear stamp of party vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who retained charge of party's frontal organisations, including the Youth Congress and National Students Union of India.

The Congress president looked to strike a regional and social balance, but there were some surprises.

Party general secretary Madhusudan Mistry, a backward-caste leader from Gujarat who over the years has gained Rahul's confidence and is fast emerging as an influential party leader, was given the charge of politically important state of Uttar Pradesh, which sends 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha. He will also head the powerful central election committee that picks poll candidates.

Divested of Uttar Pradesh charge after the drubbing the party got in the 2012 assembly polls, Digvijaya Singh will now be responsible for party affairs in Andhra Pradesh, a state in turmoil over the issue of Telangana statehood. Singh will also look after Karnataka and Goa.

Another Rahul favourite, Mohan Prakash, a staunch socialist and a former Janata Dal office-bearer who joined the Congress in 2002, was named general secretary, responsible for Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

Madhya Pradesh along with Delhi, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh is due for polls in November-December.

Shakeel Ahmed, a senior leader from Bihar and a prominent Muslim face of the party, will look after Delhi, Haryana, Punjab and Chandigarh after being named party general secretary.

Ambika Soni made an impressive comeback. Appointed general secretary, the former information and broadcasting minister will be in-charge of the Congress president's office apart from the hill states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

She returns to the party chief's office after seven years after holding charge from 2000-06.

Ahmed Patel will continue to be Sonia's political secretary.

Ajay Maken, who resigned from the union cabinet on Saturday, will head the crucial media department, renamed communications, publicity and publication wing.

Taking over from Janardan Dwivedi, who continues to look after organisation, Maken will have his job cut out as the Congress-led UPA government battles a series of corruption scandals.

Hours after he quit the cabinet, CP Joshi was named general secretary and given the charge of Bihar, where the JD(U) ended its 17-year-old alliance with the BJP, West Bengal, where former UPA partner the Trinamool Congress is in power, and Assam.

As reported by HT on June 11, Sonia opted for one person, one post norm and dropped health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad as general secretary.

In the overhaul, general secretaries Oscar Fernandes, Chaudhary Birender Singh and Vilas Muttemwar were dropped so were CWC members Jagdish Tytler, Gulchain Singh Charak, Dhani Ram Shandil, Jagmeet Singh Brar and Mohsina Kidwai, who had requested to be relieved of any charge.

Gurudas Kamat, who quit the government in 2011 after missing out on a cabinet berth, will be party general secretary with charge of Gujarat and Rajasthan.

Meanwhile Mukul Wasnik will now look after Tamil Nadu and Kerala, Luizinho Faleiro will be responsible for Northeastern states.

Prakash Joshi, who worked closely with Rahul towards the democratisation of the Youth Congress, is one of the young new secretaries.

(With inputs from HT, PTI, IANS)

First Published: Jun 17, 2013 09:54 IST