Rahul Gandhi unlikely to figure in cabinet reshuffle on Sunday



New Delhi: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is unlikely to join the Manmohan Singh government in a cabinet reshuffle scheduled for Sunday, sources in the party and Rashtrapati Bhavan said Thursday.

"The reshuffle is scheduled for Sunday," a Rashtrapati Bhavan source told a news agency.

According to Congress sources, the reshuffle will be a precursor to a change in the organisational set-up of the party which is aiming to create a new team to face the 2014 general elections and a slew of state polls next year.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi may meet Saturday to give final touches to the plan which has been in the offing the past couple of months, said the sources.

The Congress and the party-led central government have been hit by controversies revolving around alleged corruption in the allocation of coal blocks. Individual graft allegations have also surfaced against some union ministers and even Robert Vadra, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law.

According to Congress sources, the portfolios of some ministers with dual charges may change and some fresh faces may be inducted into the government to fill the six slots of junior ministers, which became vacant after Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress quit the United Progressive Alliance in September.

Party sources said some young leaders may make it to the government at the instance of Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi but he himself is unlikely to join the cabinet.

Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Jyotiraditya Scindia and Minister of State for Communications and Information Technology Sachin Pilot may be elevated, they said.

Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari, MP Deepa Dasmunshi and actor-turned-politician Chiranjeevi, who merged his Praja Rajyam Party with the Congress last year, are likely to be the fresh faces in the cabinet, the sources said.

Rahul Gandhi's close associates Manicka Tagore and Meenakshi Natarajan could also be inducted into the council of ministers, said the sources.

Among the ministers who may be dropped from the cabinet are Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal, Tourism Minister Subodh Kant Sahai and Steel Minister Beni Prasad Verma.

External Affairs Minister SM Krishna could also be in this group, said the sources.

Both Sahai and Jaiswal came under attack from the opposition on the coal blocks allocation issue.

Ministers holding dual charge, including Human Resource Development and Communications and Information Technology Minister Kapil Sibal, Law and Justice and Minority Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and Power and Corporate Affairs Minister Veerappa Moily, may be left with a single portfolio each, said the sources.

With the death of Vilasrao Deshmukh, who was minister for science and technology, there was a vacancy for a cabinet post for a leader from Maharashtra, said the sources.

The party sources said that the reshuffle would give sufficient time to the new ministers to be prepared for the winter session of parliament likely to be held Nov 22-Dec 20.

From among the UPA constituents, Agatha Sangma, minister of state for rural development, may be replaced with Nationalist Congress Party's senior leader Tariq Anwar.

NCP chief Sharad Pawar is said to be miffed with Agatha after she defied the party line and campaigned for her father and former Lok Sabha speaker P.A. Sangma, who contested the presidential poll against UPA nominee Pranab Mukherjee.

Though there were cabinet berths vacated by DMK leaders A Raja and Dayanidhi Maran, who had to leave after their names cropped up in the 2G case, the UPA constituent may not claim the vacated slots in the new cabinet, sources indicated.

IANS