New Delhi, July 16: A proposal to induct Rahul Gandhi into the Manmohan Singh ministry had been discussed at the highest level and he had come under intense pressure to shed his reluctance to join the government, sources said.
If Rahul agrees, he is likely to be offered a berth probably before the start of the monsoon session of Parliament in the first half of August.
Senior Congress leaders express their inability to talk about this with any degree of finality and concede that only three to four persons would know of the exact plan. But, they feel that Rahul becoming a cabinet minister is a distinct possibility.
Insiders confirmed that the nature and contours of the cabinet shuffle, probably the last before the general election scheduled in 2014, depend on Rahul’s response as he will have to be given an important ministry.
Some Sonia loyalists want him straightaway in one of the top four berths (home, finance, defence and external affairs), but other suggestions include human resource development or rural development.
One view is that if Rahul takes one of the top ministries, it will automatically ensure his inclusion in the cabinet committee on security (CCS), cabinet committee on political affairs (CCPA) and the Congress core committee.
Departments such as the HRD and rural development would provide him with greater opportunities to show immediate results, but he would not become part of the top decision-making bodies.
Several leaders feel that there is no point in extending Rahul’s apprenticeship by giving him less-important ministries and it was high time he assumed a proactive role.
“What Pranab Mukherjee did so far without heading the government should now be done by Rahul. He has to take the centre stage in political management and administration at this stage when the general election is less than two years away, if he has to be projected as the next Prime Minister,” said a cabinet minister supposed to be close to 10 Janpath.
Asked about Rahul’s much-avowed commitment to work for strengthening the party organisation, the minister said: “The two jobs can be done together. The government has a vital role in shaping the electoral politics and if we don’t deliver on governance in the next few months, the party will anyway be doomed. Rahul will have to only redefine his approach, not priorities. If his induction into the government brings a sense of purpose, the party will stand to gain enormously.”
The sources said the reallocation of ministries would fall in place only after the Rahul question is settled. Questions such as, where A.K. Antony will be shifted if Rahul gets defence, who the next finance minister will be and who to look after external affairs, will have to be addressed.
Besides, the DMK, which will claim two important ministries, will have to be accommodated. The fate of the Trinamul Congress will turn uncertain if Mamata Banerjee decides to vote against the UPA’s candidates for President and Vice-President. The timing of the shuffle has not been settled yet. One view is to put in place the changes soon after the election of the Vice-President on August 7. But, some leaders feel the window available before the monsoon session of Parliament is too narrow and, hence, it will be wiser not to undertake any exercise in haste.
Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh’s remark that Rahul would play a larger role from September prompted some leaders to wonder whether the reshuffle would take place after the monsoon session.
Asked about Digvijaya’s remarks, party spokesperson Manish Tewari said: “Congress workers and leaders have been asking for Rahul to assume a larger role for long, but it is for him to decide what he wants to do.”