PM meets Sonia, cabinet reshuffle likely next week (Second Lead)

July 9th, 2011 - 10:55 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, July 9 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met Congress president Sonia Gandhi Saturday, their third meeting in as many weeks, triggering a speculation of an imminent cabinet reshuffle, party sources said.

“The reshuffle appears to be next week, maybe as early as Monday,” a Congress leader told IANS.

The two leaders are learnt to have had a detailed discussion on the reshuffle at the meeting, he added.

With Dayanidhi Maran of the DMK resigning Thursday as textiles minister, induction of some new faces into the cabinet and shuffling of portfolios of some others has become necessary, sources said.

The meeting came on a day when senior party leader and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee met DMK chief M. Karunanidhi in Chennai.

While it was not clear whether the DMK would suggest to the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) leadership replacements for its earlier nominees A. Raja, now in jail for 2G scam, and Maran, Mukherjee dispelled speculation over the DMK’s continuance in the ruling alliance.

“The alliance (between DMK and the UPA) is there, it will be there and it will be strengthened,” Mukherjee told reporters after his meeting with Karunanidhi.

In his interaction with a group of editors June 29, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had said that the reshuffle was a “work in progress”.

Besides the vacancy caused by Maran’s recent exit, Mamata Banerjee quit the cabinet to take over as the chief minister of West Bengal in May.

Corporate Affairs Minister Murli Deora told media July 5 that he too has offered to resign.

Though Deora cited personal reasons of “health and old age” for his offer to quit, political circles link it to the controversies related to the petroleum ministry, which Deora held earlier.

These controversies have been mentioned in the recent draft report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).

While it is likely that some young ministers like Jyotiraditya Scindia and Sachin Pilot may be promoted, there is little indication to suggest a change among the big four - Mukherjee, Defence Minister A.K. Antony, Home Minister P. Chidambaram and External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna.

Krishna, who was most speculated to be changed, has been asked to go ahead with his work related to the visit of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to India July 19 and the preparations for ASEAN meet in Jakarta July 22.

This is interpreted as a signal to the minister that he will be untouched in the reshuffle.

However, there are speculations that Petroleum Minister Jaipal Reddy may be appointed a governor.

Reddy met the prime minister Friday and pitched for the formation of separate Telangana state, sources said.

Human Resource Minister Kapil Sibal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal are holding additional charges of two ministers - Raja and Prithviraj Chavan respectively. While Raja is lodged in the Tihar Jail, Chavan quit to become the Maharashtra chief minister.

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