Two separate unscheduled meetings that President Pranab Mukherjee had with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday triggered speculation that the much talked about Cabinet reshuffle is finally on the cards,with October 19 as a possible date for the swearing in function.
Rashtrapati Bhavan officials refused to elaborate what transpired in the 30-minute-long meeting between the Prime Minister and the President on Tuesday morning,except to describe it as a routine meeting. The air of suspense on the content of the meetings deepened further when they refused to even categorise the interaction which the President had with Sonia Gandhi. They met for about 45 minutes at 5 pm, was all that an official said.
The interactions were not pre-scheduled,it was learnt. Interestingly,Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi is also expected to call on the President on Wednesday.
Senior ministers and UPA functionaries,however,felt that the current political atmosphere as well as the impending reshuffle may have been discussed in the high-level meetings. Singh and Gandhi had met earlier on September 27 to discuss changes in the Cabinet,but had decided to postpone it,as had been reported by The Indian Express. They met last Saturday once again,ostensibly to discuss the reshuffle.
Sources in Rashtrapati Bhavan,however,said the only date available for a swearing in ceremony in the immediate is October 19. A day earlier is ruled out as Gandhi will be out of Delhi,touring in Karnataka. The same evening,President Mukherjee will be hosting a dinner for invitees to the commanders conference.
On the other hand,October 20 is being ruled out as the President will be away for four days to his native village Miraty in West Bengal for Durga Puja. Both Prime Minister Singh as well as the Congress president will also be travelling the same day to Rajasthan to attend a function where they will hand out Aadhaar numbers.
The contention in political circles is that the top four Cabinet portfolios will remain unaffected though some changes may be expected in the next level. What is to be seen is whether the controversy hit ministers like Law Minister Salman Khurshid,Tourism Minister Subodh Kant Sahay and Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal will be moved out of their posts. Many new faces though are certain to be expected at the junior ministers level,considering that several slots have fallen vacant with the exit of the TMC,which had seven ministers,from the ruling alliance.