Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee’s resignation is obviously going to result in a moderate-to-big cabinet reshuffle.
A major overhaul of both the UPA government and the Congress party organisation has been on the cards for quite some time now. But there will be an immediate requirement of a finance minister and a leader of the house in the Lok Sabha. Sources say a reshuffle might happen by the end of this month.
The Congress has already begun brainstorming over the two posts that will fall vacant in the next few days. Mukherjee is expected to resign on June 24.
DNA reported in early June that prime minister Manmohan Singh is interested in keeping the portfolio either to himself or give it to the chairman of his economic advisory council, C Rangarajan. It is likely that the finance ministry would remain with the PM for some time. Singh wants to make an effort to turn things around in this difficult scenario. If he finds the going tough he might think of bringing in either Rangarajan or deputy chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia.
But the party might want a proper political person for the coveted job in the North Block without much delay. A few names have been doing the rounds: leading the pack is home minister P Chidambaram. Since he excelled as a finance minister many suggest that the portfolio be returned to him.
Also, if Chidambaram moves from home to finance, the home ministry can go to the astute Ghulam Nabi Azad, whom many consider an able administrator and a misfit in the health ministry.
Commerce minister Anand Sharma is a dark horse though he does not have too many backers in the party. Another name that has a strong backing is that of rural development minister Jairam Ramesh. Many feel he has managed every portfolio assigned to him with a degree of dexterity and to the best of his ability.
There are some reservations though. Ramesh, some say, is too much of an individualist and he speaks his mind — two traits that do not really suit an ideal finance minister.
The bigger difficulty at the moment is finding a suitable alternative to Mukherjee as the leader of the house in the Lok Sabha. The leader must be someone who can reach out to most people in the opposition and command respect cutting across party lines.
Mukherjee ably fulfilled his duties with a degree of humility and friendliness. Smaller parties and occasionally even the Opposition was in awe of him. The Congress knows it is difficult to find someone easily who will be suitable for such a multifarious role.
Given Chidambaram’s inability to get along perfectly with the opposition, he might not be best suited for the job though he, too, is in the list of potential candidates. But Chidambaram is already under attack from the BJP-led NDA in connection with his alleged role in the 2G scam.
Another name doing the rounds is that of Sonia loyalist Sushil Kumar Shinde. The affable Maharashtra-based leader has an aloof exterior though.