Shake-up time for Cong & Govt | india | Hindustan Times
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Shake-up time for Cong & Govt

After the big action in the BJP camp, it's going to be Sonia Gandhi's and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's turn to tone up their respective teams in the party and the Gvernment.

india Updated: Jan 04, 2006 02:03 IST

After the big action in the BJP camp, it's going to be Sonia Gandhi's and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's turn to tone up their respective teams in the party and the government.

Soon after returning from her vacation this week, Sonia’s first task perhaps would be to nominate a new Working Committee. The CWC, this time, is likely to be more compact than the outgoing body. On his part, the PM may undertake a reshuffle-cum-expansion of the Cabinet, which has eight vacancies — including two of allies — caused by deaths and resignations.

Congress sources insist both exercises are inter-linked, with a strong possibility of migration between the organisation and the government. As the changes will happen in the run-up to the January 21-23 AICC plenary in Hyderabad and assembly polls this year in West Bengal, Kerala and Assam, the regional factor will manifest in the decisions the leaders take.

The PM is also expected to factor in governance requirements while choosing his team. Of particular interest will be his choice for the power ministry, where day-to-day work is being handled by Prithviraj Chavan after P.M. Sayeed's death. Reforms in the power sector, it is felt, haven't moved at the required pace, a factor that will weigh heavily on the PM's mind while selecting Sayeed's successor.

The other two obvious gaps in the government are on the foreign policy and Kashmir fronts. Given the line-up of visits by foreign dignitaries this year, including US President George Bush, there is an urgent need for a hands-on minister. Many names have been in circulation since Natwar Singh's exit but the PM hasn't revealed whether he will continue to hold the charge.

Likewise, the departure of Ghulam Nabi Azad to Srinagar has left J&K without a Cabinet minister at the Centre. The two main contenders are Saifuddin Soz, the only Congress MP from the Valley, and former Union minister Dr Karan Singh. Soz's induction as Cabinet minister would plug another gap in the Congress' quota in the Union ministry — that of a known Muslim face after Sayeed's demise and Azad's transfer.

The PM and Sonia will also have to look at Punjab, Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Himachal Pradesh. There is no Congress nominee from these states. If the expansion is substantial, some ministers of allies, notably Ram Vilas Paswan, may lose multiple portfolios.