Prime Minister has 14 Cabinet vacancies to fill
New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s indication of a Cabinet reshuffle has ensued an intense lobbying within the Congress party with leaders vying to seek ministerial berths in the last year of the UPA government.
“There are some vacancies. The issue of filling them up is being considered,” the PM said interacting with reporters while returning from a tour of Thailand and Japan. The buzz in the party is that Singh is seeing the reshuffle as an opportunity to refurbish the image of the government that has been dented by a host of scams. It might be the last reshuffle ahead of 2014 General Elections.
As most of the allies with which the UPA started its innings nine years ago are now out of its fold, the Congress has ample opportunity to accommodate at least 14 new faces.
There is possibility of the party relieving another three or four more ministers to take up organisational responsibilities as simultaneous changes are being worked out in the All India Congress Committee by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi. There are 14 vacancies in the council of ministers as those many portfolios are held as additional charge - five by the Cabinet ministers, three by ministers of state with independent charge and six other ministers of state.
More vacancies will result from Rahul Gandhi picking up some ministers for the organisational work. Prime minister currently heads a 70-member ministry.
Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal holds additional charge of law and justice, Road Transport Minister CP Joshi is also holding railways portfolio after Pawan Kumar Bansal’s resignation, Anand Sharma holds dual portfolios of commerce and textiles, Kishore Chandra Deo tribal welfare and panchayat, Kamal Nath urban development and parliamentary affairs.
MoS with dual charge are Jitendra Singh youth affairs & sports and defence, Srikant Jena statistics and chemicals & fertiliser and Pawan Ghatovar North-East and parliamentary affairs.
Four MoS with dual charge are Milind Deora telecom and shipping, Rajeev Shukla planning and parliamentary affairs, V Narayanasamy PMO and personnel, Tariq Anwar agriculture and food processing, Charan Das Mahant agriculture and food processing and Panabaka Laxmi petroleum and textile.
Sibal may retain the Law Ministry he had been yearning since the UPA assumed office in 2004, CP Joshi is content to try his luck with the Rail Ministry this time. Kishore Chander Deo wants get rid of panchayat portfolio and wants to devote himself for the Tribal Affairs Ministry.
The Prime Minister during his press conference on board his special aircraft also rejected reports of a rift between him and Congress president Sonia Gandhi. “In all truthfulness, there is no difference of opinion between me and the Congress president,” he said. But he did not reply, when asked whether Gandhi had nudged him against his wishes to get the resignation of law minister Ashwani Kumar.
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