The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
Email This Page
Cabinet reshuffle whispers in air
- Another chance for Mamata at month-end

New Delhi, Dec. 12: The Prime Minister may go in for a reshuffle and expansion of his council of ministers on December 24 after Parliament’s winter session concludes.

The question doing the rounds is whether it will be a major exercise in view of the Lok Sabha polls due next year or a limited one to fill certain portfolios.

Apart from giving Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee a suitable ministry, Atal Bihari Vajpayee may want to fill the vacancies created by the death of DMK leader Murasoli Maran and the resignation of Dilip Singh Judeo as minister of state for forest and environment after the cash-on-camera episode.

Asked about the likelihood of Mamata getting a portfolio, a Trinamul source said: “On the eve of every session of Parliament and at the end of it, we hear about a possible cabinet expansion/reshuffle.”

Last heard, she was to get the coal and mines ministry as the incumbent, Ramesh Bais, was to be sent to Chhattisgarh to head the new state government. But with Raman Singh taking charge instead, the prospect of coal ministry for Mamata has receded.

The buzz in the NDA is that Vajpayee and the BJP brass want the party strengthened in Andhra Pradesh, where elections are likely in March-April. Coalition sources said he may depute either junior urban development minister Bandaru Dattatreya or his commerce and industry counterpart C. Vidhya Sagar Rao to take charge of the state.

With the BJP in a shambles in Karnataka, there is talk of first-time MP Basangouda R. Patil, the junior textiles minister, being dropped in favour of Rajashekhara Murthy, a senior leader who defected from the Congress. Making him a cabinet minister would send a positive signal to the powerful Lingayat community in the state.

Vajpayee had last month sent BJP chief M. Venkaiah Naidu to Chennai to persuade M. Karunanidhi to nominate Maran’s substitute. But the DMK chief is yet to make up his mind, sources said, as an overwhelming view in his party is to keep options for future alliances open.

NDA sources said Samata Party chief George Fernandes wants one of his men inducted into the cabinet. If the proposed merger of the Samata and the Janata Dal (United) occurs on December 19, the combined strength of 18 would allow the defence minister to bargain for one more member from Bihar, they added.

The 12-strong Samata now has four Union ministers — Fernandes, Nitish Kumar, Digvijay Singh and Sreenivas Prasad — and the Dal (U) one, Sharad Yadav.

Email This Page