Union minister Ajay Maken resigned on Saturday,a sudden development that signaled final changes will be made in the government after the exit of two allies and two senior Congress ministers.
Maken,who held the housing and urban poverty alleviation portfolio,was asked to hand over his resignation late in the evening.
The 49-year-old minister,frequently seen as a likely successor to Sheila Dikshit as chief minister of Delhi,was apparently not expecting the directive.
He met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to hand in his papers.
Although the move was being linked to a possible future for Maken in Delhi,sources indicated it was unlikely there would be a change of leadership in the capital just before elections. One option is to appoint him as the Delhi PCC chief in which case his succession route will become fairly clear.
Or,he may even be made a party general secretary,sources said,in which event Dikshit may get to have another go as CM,if the Congress comes back to power.
Sources close to Dikshit said she was unlikely to be enthusiastic about leading the state a fourth time. The chief minister had a normal day,even planning a vacation to Shimla in the coming week,sources said. In the light of the evenings development,however,she may now have to postpone it.
Saturdays development indicated that the Congress leadership may have been giving serious thought to reshuffling the party in Delhi a signal that was sent when Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi convened two important meetings with party leaders from the state over the last two weeks.
Makens resignation also indicated that the Congress leadership was now ready to make the final changes in the union council of ministers,something at which the PM had hinted during his visit to South Africa. This became clearer following a meeting that Congress president Sonia Gandhi had with Singh two days ago. According to sources,a reshuffle or expansion could take place as early as next week.
What was not immediately clear however,was who might gain from the exercise. With Lok Sabha elections nearing,the reshuffle or expansion is expected to involve political calls,with a premium on winning candidates over governance.