Cabinet reshuffle, change of CMs on cards

There are some ministers who hold more than one portfolio and they could be relieved of the additional charge.

New Delhi: The possibility of a Cabinet reshuffle at the Centre and a change of Chief Ministers in some Congress-ruled states is said to be on the cards.

While the "big-four" at the Centre (Home, Finance, Defence and External Affairs) are unlikely to be disturbed, there could be some inductions and changes in some of the portfolios of ministers.

There are some ministers who hold more than one portfolio and they could be relieved of the additional charge, sources said.

Ministers like Veerappa Moily and Vayalar Ravi hold dual charges like Corporate Affairs and Power, and Overseas Affairs and Science and Technology respectively.

Moily got Power after the elevation of Sushilkumar Shinde to Home and Ravi got Science and Technology after the demise of Vilasrao Deshmukh.

HRD Minister Kapil Sibal has been holding Telecommunication ever since A Raja of DMK was forced to quit in the wake of spectrum allocation controversy in November, 2010.

There is talk of some ministers being sent to the party for preparations ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

There are two vacancies after representatives of DMK - Raja and Dayanidhi Maran - resigned in less than two years.

The return of President Pranab Mukherjee to the capital tomorrow from West Bengal after a 4-day visit opens the window for a change, if any, in the next few days.

Along with the Cabinet reshuffle, there is speculation about change of Chief Ministers in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan as part of plans to crank up the machinery ahead of Parliament and Assembly elections.

"No decision" yet was the cryptic response of top party sources when asked about the growing talk of replacement of N Kirankumar Reddy of Andhra Pradesh, Prithviraj Chavan of Maharashtra and Ashok Gehlot of Rajasthan ahead of the changes at Centre.

The Congress high command is said to be thinking of accommodating the Chief Ministers either at government at the Centre or in the AICC secretariat, where also a reshuffle is on the cards, if they are to be replaced.

The detractors of the Chief Ministers have contended that they cannot successfully lead the party to victory in the next polls.

Assembly elections in Rajasthan are scheduled by the end of 2013 while in Andhra Pradesh they will be held along with the Lok Sabha polls in 2014.

Assembly polls in Maharashtra are scheduled by October 2014, just a few months after the general elections.

A section of the Congress feels that the reshuffle of the Union Cabinet is getting delayed as the high command is grappling with the issue of how best to set its house in order in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan.

Andhra Pradesh is the only major state where the Congress is in power on its own, but the emergence of the YSR Congress as also the turmoil over the politically-volatile separate Telanagana issue after the death of party strongman Y S Rajasekhar Reddy has seen the party battling crisis after crisis.

It has fared poorly in the Assembly bypolls to 18 constituencies held few months ago, ringing alarm bells in Delhi. Speculation is that Union Minister S Jaipal Reddy could replace Kiran Kumar, but the Petroleum Minister is pleading ignorance of such a move. Jaipal Reddy hails from Telangana region.

Its spectacular victory in Andhra Pradesh in 2004 and 2009 Lok Sabha polls had helped ensure that Congress was in the driver`s seat at the Centre, ousting the NDA government in 2004 and returning to power in 2009.

In Maharashtra, the Chief Minister, who is known for his clean image, is under pressure ever since the party was defeated in the civic elections in Mumbai earlier this year.

Earlier this year, in a wake up call to Chavan, the Congress high command had told him to quickly get his act together or else it would be forced to look for a replacement.

"Only honesty will not do. We need competence too. Decisions have to be taken and decisions should also be seen to be taken," is the refrain of his detractors, including those from the NCP, which is a major partner in the Congress-led coalition.

"Chief Minister`s post is not like working in the Prime Minister`s Office. In states, things just do not happen unless you take decisions", a senior Congress leader, who declined to be identified, said.

The remarks are significant as Chavan was minister of state in the PMO before being made the Chief Minister in November, 2010 after the exit of Ashok Chavan in the wake of the Adarsh housing scam.

The Maharashtra Chief Minister has been dismissive of the criticism that he was slow in taking decisions. He has been insisting that of the recent chief ministers who preceded him, he was the fastest when it came to taking decisions and clearing files.

About talk of replacing him, he merely says, "I have been sent by the high command to do a job and I am doing that."

Senior Ministers in the state have been seeking to impress upon the high command that with Chavan at the helm, it would be difficult for the party at the hustings.

Former Chief Minister Narayan Rane, who is a senior Maharashtra Minister, had recently had a meeting with Sonia Gandhi, further fuelling speculation about change in Mantralaya in Mumbai.

Leaders from Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan have met Gandhi since her return from abroad. Gandhi has been holding consultations with various leaders on the issue of changes in the party and the government.

In Rajasthan, dissidence against Gehlot has been on for quite sometime in the wake of a police firing incident which has angered the minorities.