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Prabhu exit paves way for Sena shuffle in Cabinet

New Delhi, Aug. 24: With power minister Suresh Prabhu’s resignation being accepted, a mini Cabinet shuffle is likely to take place on Monday, official sources said. But the changes, they said, would be confined to the Shiv Sena — Prabhu’s party — and not involve the rest of the National Democratic Alliance, including the BJP.

After sitting on Prabhu’s resignation for three days, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today handed it over to Rashtrapati Bhavan for acceptance at Bal Thackeray’s insistence.

A Rashtrapati Bhavan communique later said: “The President has been pleased to accept on the advice of the Prime Minister, the resignation of Suresh P. Prabhu, minister of power, from the council of ministers with immediate effect.”

Yesterday, Vajpayee had told reporters at a book release function that he had spoken to the Sena chief but Thackeray put his foot down.

Government sources said Vajpayee was keen on retaining Prabhu as he was reportedly impressed with his “commitment” to fast-track reforms in the power sector.

Although Prabhu told reporters after a long meeting with Thackeray in Mumbai yesterday that he would work for the Sena, BJP sources here maintained that options of accommodating him in some capacity at the Centre were being explored.

One of them is appointing him chairman of the Finance Commission, which is expected to be reconstituted soon.

During his stint in the government, Prabhu reportedly built a good rapport with the BJP and the RSS and was in touch with Sangh chief K.S. Sudarshan.

“He was like one of us,” said a BJP functionary. Just before he put in his papers, Prabhu was invited by the BJP to address a meeting of the “think-tank” which takes place every Saturday. But Prabhu cried off at the last minute.

BJP sources did not rule out the possibility of Prabhu charting an independent course in the next Lok Sabha elections. “He is so popular and well-entrenched in his Rajapur constituency that he can win on his own as an Independent,” sources said, adding that the BJP might back him.

The sources said minister of state for finance Anant Geethe — a Sena MP — is likely to replace Prabhu, while Anandrao Adsul, also of the Sena, might take Geethe’s place.

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