New Delhi, Oct. 25 -- Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is likely to go for the much awaited cabinet reshuffle on Sunday after Dussehra and Eid get over by Saturday. Rashtrapati Bhavan sources say President Pranab Mukherjee has no engagement on Sunday except meeting the leader of the Bangladesh opposition, Bangladesh National Party chief Khaleda Zia, in the evening.
Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi met Mukherjee separately on October 16 immediately after the end of the inauspicious period of Shradh. This was followed by a separate meeting between Mukherjee and Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi.
The series of meetings had renewed speculation about an imminent reshuffle of the union cabinet. Political circles had been abuzz of changes in the cabinet since the end of the monsoon session of Parliament in September.
A section in the ruling United Progressive Alliance feels that a cabinet reshuffle is highly required after the exit of seven Trinamool Congress ministers that took the number of vacancies to 14. The council of ministers can have a maximum of 82 members, while there are 68 ministers at present.
The slots that fell vacant before the Trinamool exit were due to the death of Vilasrao Deshmukh (science and technology) and resignations of Pranab Mukherjee (finance), Dinesh Trivedi (railways), Dayanidhi Maran (textiles), A Raja (telecom) and Shashi Tharoor (minister of state for external affairs).
At least eight ministers are not only holding more than one portfolio and some of them are also occupying party posts.
They are Salman Khurshid (law and minority affairs), Kapil Sibal (HRD and telecom), Vayalar Ravi (micro, small and medium enterprises, science and technology and earth sciences and overseas Indian affairs), M Veerappa Moily (power and corporate affairs), Anand Sharma (commerce and industry and textiles), Pawan Kumar Bansal (parliamentary affairs and water resources) and Kumari Selja (housing and urban poverty alleviation and culture).
Congress leaders also see the possibility of those who are handling multiple portfolios getting lesser responsibilities in the new arrangement with the entry of more young ministers to the cabinet.
This is seen as the last major reshuffle of the UPA cabinet before the next general election. While several Congress leaders are keen on Rahul Gandhi joining the cabinet, he has not shown his inclination so far. Gandhi stated recently that he was ready to play a "larger role" in the government and the organisation.
Changes in the government would be followed by an organisational reshuffle in the Congress.
Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.