Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's meeting with President Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday has fuelled speculation that a much needed cabinet reshuffle is imminent.
Singh spent about an hour with the President and is reported to have reviewed various political and economic challenges facing the nation, particularly in the wake of the corruption charges against his cabinet colleagues including Law Minister Salman Khurshid. A section of the ruling Congress Party believes they must continue to defend Khurshid and should, in fact, consider promoting him to a key portfolio like the External Affairs Ministry.
After the prime minister’s hour-long meeting with Pranab Mukherjee, Congress chief and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi also met with President. Mukherjee and Sonia reportedly discussed the corruption allegations made against Sonia’s son- in- law, Robert Vadra. Moreover, Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi, the Congress party’s presumed prime minister-in-waiting, is also scheduled to meet the President on Wednesday.
Sources said that if the reshuffle does go forward it will take place as soon as Friday, after which time the President is scheduled to leave the capital for a five-day trip to his ancestral home of West Bengal for Durga Puja festivities, a big festival season in Bengal.
Some speculation, however, that instead of a major reshuffle the Congress Party may instead opt for the more limited “Kamaraj Plan"– that is, removing the perceived “dead wood” by rotating some of the ministers in the government to the party and vice versa. The Congress may also change two of its chief ministers, namely Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy.
There is a further possibility that Rahul Gandhi could be promoted to the Congress Party’s Vice President or Working President and may bring with him an entirely new team of officials to the All India Congress Committee (AICC) headquarters. Sources said it is unlikely that the UPA allies would join the cabinet except for Tariq Anwar of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).