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Scramble to save & snare posts
- Intense jockeying as Cabinet recast date nears

New Delhi, Jan. 27: Betrayed only by closed-door parleys and a curt departure, jockeying by shaky ministers and hopeful claimants was at full play in the capital where a Cabinet recast is expected by the end of this week.

Both coal and mines minister Uma Bharti and minister of state for personnel Vasundhara Raje were reportedly resisting the move to shift them to Bhopal and Jaipur, respectively, to lead the BJP in the November elections.

A final decision on the date and the inductions/casualties is expected to be taken by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani when they travel together to Gujarat tomorrow.

The day’s political activities were capped by a long meeting among Vajpayee, Advani and BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu at the Prime Minister’s residence.

BJP sources said Naidu’s presence was explained by speculation that Vajpayee was keen on bringing back Arun Jaitley as law minister in place of K. Jana Krishnamurthi and that Naidu was resisting any more government-party cross migration in the run-up to the Assembly elections. Jaitley, too, is said to be not keen on returning to the government.

Jaitley was brought to the BJP from the government with fanfare barely six months ago as part of a larger shuffle which, ironically, claimed Krishnamurthi as its prime casualty.

Sources said Naidu, backed by Advani, felt that taking Jaitley or any party functionary in the government may convey the signal that an organisational post was a “punishment posting”. Jaitley was designated the BJP’s chief spokesman and has been drafted in a big way in the Himachal Pradesh electioneering.

Before the meeting at Vajpayee’s residence, Naidu and Jaitley had a one-to-one session at the party chief’s house ostensibly to discuss the Himachal poll preparations.

As their meeting was on, urban development minister Ananth Kumar dropped in and left with Naidu, on his way to 7 Race Course Road, without saying a word. Kumar’s presence led to speculation that his job may be in danger because of a proposal to move him to Karnataka as state BJP chief.

However, it is learnt that Kumar is resisting the proposed shift as was another minister, Vasundhara Raje, who was anointed the Rajasthan BJP president four months ago. Rajya Sabha member L.M. Singhvi is tipped for Raje’s slot in the ministry if she quits.

Another proposal envisages a swap between information and broadcasting minister Sushma Swaraj and infotech minister Pramod Mahajan. But Mahajan’s insistence on retaining the communications portfolio is standing in the way. Efforts are also on to induct Farooq Abdullah.

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