Reshuffle, expansion of Union Cabinet likely after Prez poll
New Delhi: A reshuffle-cum-expansion of Union Council of Ministers appears to be on the cards after the July 19 Presidential elections.
With Pranab Mukherjee set to become President and the resignation of Virbhadra Singh from the Union Cabinet in the wake of a controversial CD relating to alleged graft, the Prime Minister is expected to make some changes in his team.
While the Prime Minister had taken charge of the Finance Ministry follwing Mukherjee's resignation last month, it remains to be seen whether he hands over the portfolio to a senior minister.
Chidambaram has been making statements on the state of the economy over the past few days. Chidambaram was the Finance Minister before being moved to the Home Ministry in the aftermath of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack.
The post of the Leader of the Lok Sabha also falls vacant once Mukherjee moves to the Rashtrapati Bhawan and the names of Home Minister P Chidambaram, Power Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, Urban Development Minister Kamal Nath and Oil Minister S Jaipal Reddy are being mentioned.
Besides, the Prime Minister has to appoint Mukherjee's successor in key cabinet committees on Security, Economic Affairs and Political Affairs.
The Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs, which was headed by Mukherjee, also needs to be re-constitued.
There is speculation that the Prime Minister may utilise the occasion to bring in young blood in the council of ministers.
External Affairs Minister S M Krishna had mooted Rahul Gandhi's name for a portfolio in the council of ministers but indications from the AICC are that he is not keen about it.
The Prime Minister, while returning from a visit to Mexico and Brazil last month, had indicated that a cabinet reshuffle was on the anvil but declined to comment on the timing.
"I think that is a legitimate expectation...You will get to know about it when it takes place," he had told reporters when asked about a reshuffle of the cabinet.
With Mukherjee's exit from the Cabinet, there is talk about inclusion of members from West Bengal in the council of ministers. Mukherjee was the only minister of Congress from West Bengal in the Cabinet.
Congress has six Lok Sabha members from West Bengal while its ally Trinamool 19. The state sends 42 members to the Lok Sabha. Pradip Bhattacharya, the WPCC chief, is the lone Rajya Sabha MP of Congress from the state.
With Gujarat assembly elections by year-end, government has made former chief minister Shankarsinh Vaghela the chairman of the Indian Tourism Development Corporation with a cabinet rank. Vaghela is also the Chairman of Congress' campaign committee for Gujarat elections scheduled later this year.