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Singh’s team shuffle on plenary pause

New Delhi, Jan. 11: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is likely to shuffle his council of ministers after the Congress plenary in Hyderabad, according to government sources.

Singh was earlier expected to revamp his team before the Hyderabad session that starts on January 21.

But the Prime Minister himself had refused to put a time-line on the shuffle when he told the media during an informal interaction yesterday that “it can also be before or after the Hyderabad plenary.”

Although Singh had more or less decided on the inductions after consultations with Congress president Sonia Gandhi, sources said there was pressure from the party not to make “ad hoc” changes.

A section of the party wants the Prime Minister to fine-tune the exercise to address regional and caste “aspirations” and fill in the vaccuum caused by these factors.

The same group is also keen to balance the “age factor” ' meaning, have the right mix of the young and the old. The last is being perceived as a covert message to induct Amethi MP Rahul Gandhi in the cabinet.

The sources said although Sonia apparently wanted Rahul to go through the trajectory of a spell in the party organisation, like his father Rajiv Gandhi did before going into the government, the other precedent of how his grandmother, Indira Gandhi, made her debut in politics as information and broadcasting minister was also cited to bolster the case for his induction.

Irrespective of the debate on Rahul, there was a feeling in the government and the Congress that the young were under-represented in the council of ministers, despite a large number getting elected.

It was also felt that states like Uttaranchal and Kerala ' which are Congress-ruled ' and those like Chhattisgarh and Orissa, where it was in the Opposition, were either under-represented or “non-existent” in the council of ministers. The Kerala quota is certain to go to either Vayalar Ravi or A.K. Antony, the sources said.

On the caste front, the sources pointed out that it was important to dispel the impression that the Congress was “pro-upper caste”. For instance, all the central ministers from Andhra Pradesh ' S. Jaipal Reddy, Dasari Narayana Rao and Renuka Chowdhury ' are from the upper castes.

The indication is that either Rao or Chowdhury could be dropped in favour of a person from the weaker sections.

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