Cabinet reshuffle: Deshmukh, Moily, Reddy to get the boot?
The stage is set for the Cabinet reshuffle, scheduled to be held on Wednesday evening at 5 pm, after the names of the outgoing and new ministers were finalised in a two-hour long meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday.
Hours after Dr Singh and Gandhi finalised the names, the latter's political secretary Ahmed Patel started calling Congress ministers to 10 Janpath (Gandhi's residence), so that they could submit their resignations.
Reportage: A correspondent in New Delhi
Image: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi
Deshmukh and Virbhadra Singh to go?
The first four to get Patel's calls were: Heavy Industries Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, Steel Minister Virbhadra Singh, Tribal Affairs Minister Kantilal Bhuria and Minister of State V Narayanasamy.
Bhuria is being sent to Bhopal to head the party's Madhya Pradesh unit, indicating the return of MP Pradesh Congress Committee president Suresh Pachauri to the cabinet, most probably as a MoS in the Prime Minister's Office to fill the vacancy caused from Prithviraj Chavan, who shifted to Maharashtra as the chief minister. MoS in Home Ministry Ajay Maken is also in the reckoning to become the second MoS in the high-profile PMO.
Deshmukh and Virbhadra Singh are being dropped as part of a strategy firmed up by the prime minister who is determined not to have three types of politicians in his Cabinet: Those facing serious corruption charges, those involved in infighting and those who are incompetent. He is also planning to shift ministers who didn't fulfil the promises made by the government in the President's address to Parliament last February.
Even as the ministerial changes were being given the final shape, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has called a meeting of the Group of Ministers in his chamber in North Block on Friday at 4 pm, indicating that he is not among those ministers who will face the reshuffle.
Image: Vilasrao Deshmukh
Moily out, Khurshid in?
Law Minister Veerappa Moily has piled up many negatives, but the PM put him on the chopping block for his failure to notify the ratification of the United Nations convention on black money, said sources in the PMO.
MoS (Independent charge) Minority Affairs and Corporate Affairs Salman Khurshid is likely to be the next law minister as part of the strategy to get ready for assembly elections, scheduled to be held in Uttar Pradesh in March 2012.
Keshav Rao, in-charge of West Bengal and Jharkhand in the All India Congress Committee, may get a Cabinet berth to grant representation to a Congress leader from Telangana.
Shipping Minister G K Vasan may step down to take over as the PCC president in Tamil Nadu, which is due to face assembly elections later this year.
MoS in Steel Ministry Sai Pratap is being dropped as he had publicly sided with party rebel Y S Jagan Reddy. MoS in Textile Ministry Panapakkam Lakshmi from Andhra Pradesh may also be axed.
Image: Veerappa Moily and Salman Khurshid
Jaipal Reddy on the way out?
Speculations have been rife about Urban Development Minister S Jaipal Reddy being shifted to another ministry or the AICC because the PM is unhappy about the way he handled preparations for the Commonwealth Games.
Incidentally, Home Minister P Chidambaram is hosting a luncheon for the media on Friday, though he has specifically stated that it was not to be interpreted as a farewell party.
Image: P Chidambaram
M S Gill out, Manish Tiwari in?
Sports Minister M S Gill may also get the boot over the CWG mess. He is likely to be succeeded by Congress spokesman and Member of Parliament Manish Tiwari.
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader TKS Elangovan is likely to get a Cabinet berth to make up for the loss of the telecom ministry, after DMK MP A Raja was forced to resign over the massive 2G scam.
Former Union shipping minister T R Baalu, who was ruled out by Dr Singh while forming the Cabinet of United Progressive Alliance II, may also make a comeback as the telecom minister.
According to sources, a member of Parliament from Trinamool Congress and Nationalist Congress Party leader Praful Patel (currently MoS Civil Aviation) may be made full-fledged Cabinet ministers.
Image: M S Gill and Manish Tiwari
Soni to succeed Sibal?
Though the Congress is committed to the 'one man, one post' principle, sources say that Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad may hold the posts of Parliamentary Affairs Minister and AICC general secretary together, dashing the hopes of Jammu and Kashmir PCC president Saifuddin Soz.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni may succeed Kapil Sibal as the minister for human resource development. The PM reportedly wants Sibal to continue as the telecom minister.
MoS in Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers Srikant Jena, who is severely unhappy over his 'demotion', having been in charge of a Cabinet berth earlier, may become a full-fledged minister after the reshuffle.
Sources say that Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar's 'load' may also be lessened, though which positions he will have to relinquish is still not clear.
Image: Ambika Soni and Kapil Sibal