Ever since the Trinamool Congress pulled out of the UPA, there’s been talk of a cabinet reshuffle. And now Congress president Sonia Gandhi has called for a meeting of the party’s working committee on Tuesday.
Officially, the meeting has been slotted at 8.30am to discuss the present political situation. But the meeting has to end before 10.30am as all participants are scheduled to attend a function as part of the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of Motilal Nehru.
A cabinet reshuffle and a reworking of the party’s organisational setup have been long overdue though senior leaders have been informally talking about it.
But given the considerations that guide the party’s decision-making process and the other variants, it is expected that the reshuffle ( if it happens) would take place on September 28.
There was no confirmation till late evening on Monday about the rejig exercise. And president Pranab Mukherjee is scheduled to leave for a two-day visit to J&K on September 26.
With prime minister Manmohan Singh taking the initiative on the administrative front by announcing a series of dramatic decisions, attention is focussed on Sonia Gandhi’s ability to regain the political ground that has been lost with the exit of the Trinamool Congress.
“It is always better to have numbers within the ruling alliance instead of depending on outside support,” a Union minister said without spelling out the contours of the new configuration that the UPA is looking at.
At this stage, the party managers are not openly talking about the possibility of the Samajwadi Party or the Bahujan Samaj Party although backroom negotiations are underway. The Lalu Prasad Yadav-led RJD is more than keen on joining the government.
Vacancies created by Mukherjee’s elevation to the Rashtrapati Bhavan, former Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh’s demise, and Virbhadra Singh’s resignation have to be filled up. Moreover, several Union ministers are holding additional charges, and their work has to be reallocated.
And then there are the demands of the allies. The DMK has two vacancies (cabinet ministers) and the NCP has one (minister of state).
The process of internal consultation is in full swing with Gandhi meeting AICC treasurer Motilal Vora, Union ministers Ghulam Nabi Azad and CP Joshi, Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, and AICC in-charge (Maharashtra) Mohan Prakash. Chavan’s name has been doing the rounds for a cabinet berth at the Centre.
A reshuffle of the AICC secretariat too is on the cards. Amethi MP Rahul Gandhi is expected to get a larger responsibility in the organisation.
The exercise could see some of the ministers holding charges of two ministries losing one of the portfolios. Beni Prasad Verma, Kapil Sibal, CP Joshi, Veerappa Moily and Vayalar Ravi are some of the ministers holding charge of two ministries.
(With inputs from agencies)