Crucial Cabinet reshuffle on Sunday; Anand Sharma may get MEA



Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: An imminent Cabinet revamp will take place on Sunday with seven ministers including SM Krishna and Ambika Soni stepping down to make way for newer, and possibly, younger faces.

At least 12 new faces are likely to be inducted and few Ministers of State will be promoted besides a rejig in Cabinet portfolios wherein Anand Sharma may be made External Affairs Minister.

Ghulam Nabi Azad is likely to be moved from Health to Petroleum Ministry in place of S Jaipal Reddy who is tipped to be shifted to Human Resources Development Ministry.

Kapil Sibal is expected to shed HRD portfolio and retain Telecom Ministry.

Ahead of the reshuffle, Krishna quit as external affairs minister, Ambika Soni stepped down as information and broadcasting minister, Subodh Kant Sahai resigned as tourism minister and Mukul Wasnik as social justice and empowerment minister.

The ministers of state who quit were Vincent Pala (water resources), Agatha Sangma (rural development) and Mahadeo Singh Khandela (tribal affairs). A Rashtrapati Bhavan communique Saturday evening said the resignations have been accepted.

As per news reports, Agatha had to resign on her party NCP's directions after she campaigned for her father PA Sangma in the July Presidential elections in defiance of the party.

The Cabinet reshuffle will take place at 11.30 am at the Rashtrapati Bhavan tomorrow before Manmohan Singh leaves for Himachal Pradesh to address a poll rally.

The swearing-in ceremony is likely to see a number of new faces getting inducted into the cabinet.

The cabinet reshuffle was necessitated by the Trinamool Congress, with six ministers, quitting the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and the government last month.

59-year-old Sharma, who is tipped to move from Commerce to take the place of Krishna, has done a stint in the MEA as MoS in UPA one. As Congress leader he had campaigned against apartheid in South Africa.

His place in Commerce is all set to go to 53-year-old Purandeswari, daughter of the late N T Rama Rao, after her eight-year tenure in as MoS in HRD Ministry.

Prominent among the newcomers expected to be inducted are actor-turned politician Chiranjeevi (Andhra Pradesh), AH Khan Chowdhry, brother of late ABA Ghani Khan Chowdhry, Pradeep Bhattacharya and Deepa Dasmunsi (West Bengal), Tariq Anwar (Maharashtra), Pradeep Balmuchu (Jharkhand) and Pradeep Majhi (Odisha).

Besides Purandeswari and Ajay Maken, who could also be promoted as a Cabinet minister, Ministers of State who could be upgraded are Sachin Pilot, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Milind Deora. Maken may get Information and Broadcasting portfolio.

In the rejig of portfolios, Urban Development Minister Kamal Nath is likely to be given additional charge of Parliamentary Affairs, now held by Pawan Kumar Bansal, who is expected to retain Water Resources.

Anwar, NCP MP, is expected to be made Minister of State for Agriculture to work under his party chief Sharad Pawar.

Along with the revamp in the Council of Ministers, there is a possibility of long-awaited restructuring in the AICC, to make it ready organisationally for the next Lok Sabha elections slated in 2014.

Submitting their resignations, Soni, Wasnik and Sahai said they will work for the party. Soni was Congress General Secretary for several years and was Political Secretary to Congress President Sonia Gandhi while Wasnik was handling the dual responsibility of Congress General Secretary as well as Union Minister.

Before meeting the Prime Minister, Sahai said yesterday that Congress President Sonia Gandhi called him to draft him for party work.

"It is an honour to work for the party. I am offering my resignation to Prime Minister. Party President (Sonia Gandhi) and others want me to work for the party so I will be working to strengthen the party as the party is supreme.We are in the government because of the party. Party is supreme and will always be supreme," he said.

Sahai's name had cropped up in a controversy following media expose that he had recommended for allocation of coal block a company in Jharkhand in which his brother was a Director.

With PTI inputs