With Trinamool Congress ministers pulling out of the UPA government, a cabinet reshuffle appears imminent and could take place over the next few days, Congress sources said. The sources said that the reshuffle could take place just before or after President Pranab Mukherjee's visit to Jammu and Kashmir beginning Wednesday.
In case it is delayed, it could take place by the middle of next month as the pitrapaksha period (not favoured for new beginnings by many Hindus) would begin by the end of this month. The reshuffle would not only fill existing vacancies but may also rationalise work of ministers having more portfolios than one.
According to the sources, there was a possibility of the Congress keeping the railway ministry which was with the Trinamool Congress in the UPA-II. Road Transport Minister C.P. Joshi has been given the additional charge of the railways, a ministry which has not been held by a Congress leader for over 15 years.
The sources said there was no indication so far that party general secretary Rahul Gandhi will join the government and there was likelihood of his assuming a bigger role in the party organisation.
With the Trinamool out, the Congress is expected to induct its own leaders from West Bengal into the council of ministers. Names of Deepa Dasmunsi and Adhir Chowdhury have been doing the rounds as possible candidates. A leader from Maharashtra could be inducted to replace Vilasrao Deshmukh, who passed away recently.
Vacancies had also been created by the resignation of Virbhadra Singh in June this year, and two ministers belonging to the DMK - A.Raja and Dayanidhi Maran - resigning earlier. The ministers holding dual charge include M. Veerappa Moily, Vayalar Ravi and Kapil Sibal, besides Joshi.
Tourism Minister Subodh Kant Sahai and Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal have been facing allegations from the opposition over the allocation of coal blocks and there is some speculation about their continuance in the council of ministers.
The party sources also said that the reshuffle could see some ministers being drafted for party work or given organisational responsibilities along with their work in the government as part of preparations for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi will give final shape to the cabinet reshuffle after talking to allies of the United Progressive Alliance government.
"This would probably be the last major reshuffle before the 2014 elections. The changes will be made keeping the next elections in view," a Congress leader said.
The sources said that the Congress would strive towards result-oriented governance in the next few months with thrust on the performance of ministries dealing with infrastructure to boost growth. The Congress is yet to deliver on some of its poll promises made in 2009 manifesto.
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