New Delhi, Nov. 4: Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is likely to shuffle his council of ministers soon. Sweeping changes in the portfolios are not expected, but a few ministers of state are likely to be shifted.
On November 12, minister of state for personnel Vasundhara Raje Scindia will take over as president of the BJP’s Rajasthan unit. Scindia is likely to tender her resignation from the council of ministers next week.
Minister of state for commerce and industry Raman Singh has taken charge as BJP chief in Chhattisgarh. Apart from filling up these two vacancies, the Prime Minister may shift petroleum minister Ram Naik, minister of state for railways A.K. Murthy and find a new minister for commerce and industry in place of the DMK’s ailing Murasoli Maran.
But Naik, who is opposing disinvestment in oil companies, will be shifted only if deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani endorses the move.
The Prime Minister’s other headache is finding someone for the ministry of commerce and industry.
With Maran unlikely to come back to such a demanding portfolio, the search is on for a replacement. Sources said Vajpayee wants a pro-reform minister, especially when several of his Cabinet colleagues are trying to isolate him on disinvestment.
There is no indication yet as to the fate of Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee. Party sources said Mamata is scheduled to reach Delhi on November 16 for the winter session of Parliament, scheduled to begin from November 18.
Asked about Mamata’s chances of making it back to the Cabinet, an NDA leader said: “Mamata cannot be writing poetry all the time.” But he added that he was not too sure whether Mamata would be called.
The Prime Minister is also under pressure to induct a Delhi MP as urban development minister — a post held by Ananth Kumar now — in view of the Assembly elections next year.
With real estate playing a key role in Delhi’s local politics, the urban development ministry is considered by many as a crucial factor in the Assembly elections.
The urban development portfolio is now held by Ananth Kumar, a BJP leader from Karnataka.
In the last shuffle, Vajpayee had tried to draft Kumar for party work in Karnataka. But Kumar, counted among Advani’s supporters, managed to thwart the move.
The BJP feels that if the Prime Minister could not find an MP from the capital to replace Kumar, he should shift Sahib Singh Verma, who represents outer Delhi, from labour to urban development. Sources said Verma, a former Delhi chief minister, is not happy with the labour portfolio.