The Telegraph
Friday , October 26 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Stage set for Sunday shuffle

New Delhi, Oct. 25: The much awaited cabinet shuffle, scheduled for Sunday, is set to be a major exercise as Congress president Sonia Gandhi is keen on a drastic image makeover for the government before the next general election.

Congress sources said the changes were still being worked out, though Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had already informed President Pranab Mukherjee about his plan to induct new ministers on October 28.

Rashtrapati Bhavan sources confirmed that preparations for the swearing-in ceremony were on.

Although Rahul Gandhi is not going to join the government yet, he is actively involved in the revamp exercise to ensure that younger leaders are given effective representation instead of a symbolic presence as ministers of state.

Rahul had met the Prime Minister last week to argue his point as some senior ministers have been rooting for experience as vital to running ministries.

Party leaders said Rahul feels that induction of younger MPs would not only inject greater dynamism but also refurbish the government’s image.

“We also want the exercise to be substantive,” a senior leader told The Telegraph. “The game of musical chairs won’t help us change the negative perception.”

The party believes this could be the last opportunity to make changes in the government before the next elections, due in 2014. There is enough scope for giving the government a new face as key departments like railways, power, human resource development, petroleum and textiles are expected to get new ministers.

There could be a change in external affairs, too, as most senior leaders and ministers want S.M. Krishna, who is over 80, to make way for a younger minister.

While Kapil Sibal is certain to lose either HRD or telecom as Sonia does not want two key ministries under one head, Anand Sharma will lose textiles he now holds in addition to commerce and industry.

C.P. Joshi, who is holding railways and surface transport, may be shifted out of both.

The power ministry, given to corporate affairs minister Veerappa Moily after Sushil Kumar Shinde became home minister, is also awaiting a new head.

The buzz is Jaipal Reddy could be moved out of petroleum. Vayalar Ravi, who is looking after three ministries — overseas affairs, science and technology, and micro, small and medium enterprises — is set to have his workload lessened.

Parliamentary affairs minister Pawan Bansal, too, has an additional charge — water resources — while law minister Salman Khurshid looks after minority affairs also. Housing and urban poverty alleviation minister Kumari Selja holds additional charge of culture.

Rural development minister Jairam Ramesh also looks after drinking water and sanitation, which Gurudas Kamat refused to accept in the last shuffle. Kamat is expected to be inducted with a heavier portfolio.

More than one member could be inducted from Bengal. While Abu Hasem Khan Chowdhury’s name is almost certain, Pradip Bhattacharya, Adhir Chowdhury and Deepa Das Munshi are the other contenders.