New Delhi: External Affairs Minister SM Krishna on Friday quit the Union Council of Ministers, just two days ahead of what is expected to be a substantial cabinet reshuffle Sunday
The 80-year-old leader from Karnataka sent his resignation this afternoon to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who accepted the same.
The Congress is believed to have conveyed to Krishna that it wanted him to head back to Karnataka and look after the party`s affairs in the southern state which goes to polls in the first half of next year.
It may be noted that Krishna was on Thursday named in an investigation by a Karnataka Lokayukta court into the acquisition of land for the Mysore-Bangalore Expressway.
Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma, also a former minister of state for external affairs, is widely considered the front-runner for the prized post.
Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal, Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni, Urban Development Minister Kamal Nath and and Shashi Tharoor, a Congress MP from Kerala and a former minister of state for external affairs, are among the other names doing the rounds for this key position.
Meanwhile, reports emerged that Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni and Social Justice Minister Mukul Wasnik also had offered to quit to work for the party.
Whether Rahul Gandhi would join the government is still a matter of conjecture even as the Prime Minister held consultations with Congress president Sonia Gandhi for about an hour, apparently to give final touches to the exercise.
Some more Ministers are likely to quit ahead of the reshuffle, which could be the last before the Lok Sabha elections slated for 2014.
Among the probables for induction are Chiranjeevi, whose 18 MLAs provide stability to the Congress government in Andhra Pradesh after the merger of his party PRP.
Speculation is that former Chief Minister K Vijay Bhaskar Reddy`s son Surya Prakash and two MPs from Telengana region are likely to be made union ministers.
From West Bengal, where ally Trinamool Congress quit the UPA two months back, Congress MPs A H Khan Chowdhury, brother of late Ghani Khan Chowdhury, PCC President Pradeep Bhattacharya and Deepa Dasmunsi are among those being said to be considered for induction.
Trinamool had six ministers in the Council of Ministers, including one at the Cabinet level.
The possible names of the successors in the External Affairs Ministry include Commerce Minister Anand Sharma.
The other changes could include ministers holding dual portfolio shedding one of their responsibilities.
Younger ministers like Sachin Pilot, Milind Deora and Jyotiraditya Scindia are likely to be upgraded.
There have been berths vacated by DMK representatives A Raja and Dayanidhi Maran in the last two years after their names cropped in the 2G scam. However, DMK president M Karunanidhi had recently made clear that his party will not like to reclaim their lost berths.
Yesterday also Minister of State in the PMO V Narayanasamy met Karunanidhi at his residence in Chennai when DMK leader is believed to have stuck to his position.
There is speculation that some young faces, considered close to Rahul, like Manicka Tagore and Meenakshi Natarajan could be inducted into the council of ministers.
HRD Minister Kapil Sibal (Telecom), Road and Transport Minister C P Joshi (Railways), Law Minister Salman Khurshid (Minority Affairs) and Corporate Affairs Affairs Minister M Veerappa Moily (Power) and Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi (MSME, S and T and Earth Sciences).
With the death of Vilasrao Deshmukh, there is a vacancy for a cabinet minister from Maharashtra.
Tourism Minister Subodh Kant Sahai and Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaisawal have come under attack from the Opposition on the coal block allocation issue.