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Manmohan hints at another cabinet reshuffle

A prime ministerial aide said the performance of ministries would be taken up after the Budget Session of Parliament.

india Updated: Jan 29, 2006 21:07 IST

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Sunday there was a "lot of talent" in the first major cabinet expansion he effected during his 20 months in power - and indicated another such exercise in the next few months.

He was speaking to reporters after the oath-taking by the newly inducted ministers at Rashtrapati Bhavan here.

Asked why the vacancy in the external affairs ministry, which he holds charge of, had not been filled, Manmohan Singh replied: "The ministry of external affairs can wait. There is still some more time".

Singh has been holding the portfolio since K Natwar Singh quit in November over his alleged involvement in Iraq's oil-for-food scam. Manmohan Singh is likely to give up the portfolio after the March visit of US President George W Bush.

Speaking about the new ministers, the prime minister said: "Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Tamil deserved to improve their representation."

Of the 22 new ministers sworn in three each are from Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh and two from Tamil Nadu.

The prime minister also hinted at another cabinet expansion after the conclusion of the Budget Session of parliament that begins Feb 16.

A prime ministerial aide said the performance of ministries would be taken up after the Budget Session and on that basis another reshuffle could happen.

Asked why no young MPs had been made ministers, Congress president Sonia Gandhi replied: "Everyone has to do their bit for the party. If you work hard, you will be noticed."

In this context, she pointed to the induction of Ambika Soni and Anand Sharma who have served as party spokespersons, and of Ajay Maken, who was a prominent member of Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit's cabinet before being elected to the Lok Sabha in 2004.

"Both Ambika and Sharma were from the Youth Congress and, therefore, the message to the younger MPs is to work. Their efforts will be noticed," Gandhi added.

She also emphasised there would soon be changes in the Congress following the induction of Sharma and Soni into the cabinet.

First Published: Jan 29, 2006 14:45 IST