Cabinet expansion in Andhra likely to take place next week

Hyderabad: Focus in Andhra Pradesh has now shifted to the much-awaited expansion and reshuffle of the state council of ministers, after the Kiran Kumar Reddy government proved its strength in the Assembly through successful election of Speaker and Deputy Speaker.

Government sources said the Cabinet expansion is expected to take place next week, after the Congress high command gives its final nod.

Topping the agenda will be the appointment of Deputy Chief Minister, as promised by the Congress party when Kiran Kumar Reddy became the Chief Minister in November last. It took more than six months for the Congress to finalise the name of Damodar Rajanarasimha for the post of Deputy CM.

Damodar, who represents Andhole constituency in Medak district of Telangana region, is currently the State Higher Education Minister, holding full additional charge of Agriculture Department. Damodar, a Scheduled Caste leader, was chosen for the post as per the caste calculations and the regional factor.

As the Praja Rajyam Party’s (PRP) merger with the ruling Congress almost through, the Chief Minister is required to go ahead with the Cabinet re-jig exercise and put governance back on track.

PRP president Chiranjeevi flew to New Delhi last evening, on summoning by AICC general secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad, to discuss issues related to his PRP merger with Congress and the Cabinet posts to be offered for his MLAs.

After the resignations of Agriculture Minister YS Vivekananda Reddy and Endowments Minister Jupalli Krishna Rao recently, the number of vacancies in the Cabinet has gone up to 7.

Names of senior ministers Ponnala Lakshmaiah, Botsa Satyanarayana and junior minister D Sridhar Babu are being considered for the Pradesh Congress Committee chief post. If that happens, one of them will have to quit the Cabinet. Interestingly, neither of them is willing to give up the minister’s post even if appointed the PCC chief.

If the Congress high command insists on the one-man-one-post principle, one more vacancy will be created in the Cabinet.

In the expansion, the PRP is expected to be given three slots and the rest will be filled with the ruling party members, Congress sources indicate.

Besides filling the vacant slots, the Chief Minister will also have to reshuffle the portfolios of some senior ministers who raised a banner of revolt immediately after the constitution of Council of Ministers in December last. The Congress high command placated them promising better postings when the Cabinet expansion or reshuffle takes place.

Now, the Chief Minister will have to do a balancing act to please not just his party MLAs but also those joining from the PRP and put a cohesive team in place for better governance.