Today’s Cabinet reshuffle: Veterans to enter in poll year,shake-up in portfolios

Party caps reshuffle exercise both in its ranks and govt in preparation for 2014 LS elections.

Written by Swaraj Thapa | New Delhi | Published:June 17, 2013 3:17 am

Sis Ram Ola,the old warhorse from Rajasthan,and Congress veteran Oscar Fernandes will be sworn in on Monday along with six new ministers in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Cabinet,as the party caps a reshuffle exercise both in its ranks and the government in preparation for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Four of the eight ministers to be sworn in at 5.30 pm at the Durbar Hall in Rashtrapati Bhavan will be of Cabinet rank,sources said,while the rest will be ministers of state. The minor rejig may also involve a shake-up of some other ministerial portfolios.

Fernandes may be given charge of Labour,a portfolio he had held earlier,with present incumbent Mallikarjun Kharge moving to the Railway Ministry. However,the option of giving Fernandes Railways is also being considered. Ola,whose induction is being done keeping in mind the Jat vote in Rajasthan,may be given the Surface Transport Ministry,sources indicated.

Another party old guard,Mohsina Kidwai,who was divested of her charge in the AICC set-up,may be accommodated in the government,though she is reportedly not keen to take up the assignment. She may be given charge of the Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation Ministry.

The fourth name that is being tipped for Cabinet berth is of Andhra Pradesh MP and former minister Renuka Chowdhury,who may be given the Textiles portfolio. There is,though,added speculation that Srikant Jena may be promoted as Cabinet minister.

At least two of the four junior ministers to be sworn in are likely to be from the poll-bound states of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Those whose names are being considered,sources said,include Gajendra Singh Rajukhedi and Sajjan Singh Verma,though the latter was Sunday appointed as a secretary in the AICC.

Meenakshi Natarajan,who was dropped as an AICC secretary on Sunday,is also supposed to be in the reckoning for a ministerial berth. She has however denied that she will be taking oath,amidst indications that she may figure in another party committee which will be reporting directly to Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi.

Manik Rao Gavit,an Adivasi MP from Maharashtra,and J D Seelam,a Rajya Sabha MP from Andhra Pradesh,are also tipped to be made ministers of state,sources said.

The intent of the reshuffle/expansion is clearly political and with an eye on polls,with old guard loyalists like Ola and Fernandes being rewarded and others from election-bound states being accommodated. Ola who has won many an election from his pocket borough of Jhunjhunu and still commands respect among the Jats of Rajasthan,for instance,has cautioned the leadership about his community’s disenchantment with the Congress.

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