The stage is set for today’s much-anticipated cabinet reshuffle, with seven ministers, including SM Krishna and Ambika Soni, stepping down to make way for newer, and possibly, younger faces. “The new ministers will take an oath in the morning at 11.30 am,” a Rashtrapati Bhavan official said.
Congress general secretary Gandhi may take on a more prominent role in the Congress party. Gandhi met party president Sonia Gandhi yesterday amid talks that he is pushing to bring younger faces into the ministry.
The cabinet reshuffle was necessitated by the Trinamool Congress, with six ministers quitting the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and the government last month.
The reshuffle today will give sufficient time to the new ministers to be prepared for the winter session of parliament to be held in November-December. The rejig is likely to be the last one before the 2014 general elections and comes days after the Manmohan Singh government shrugged off criticism of policy paralysis by ushering in a slew of economic reforms, including allowing FDI in multi-brand retail as well as deciding to open up the insurance and pensions sector to foreign investment.
Among the ministers who may be dropped are Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal and Steel Minister Beni Prasad Verma.
Among the names doing the rounds as probable new faces to be inducted in the cabinet today are of actor-turned politician Chiranjeevi from Andhra Pradesh and Abu Hasem Khan Choudhury, the brother of late Congress leader Abu Barkat Ghani Khan Choudhury, from Malda district of West Bengal.
There are several names being speculated as possible successors to Krishna, including Commerce Minister Anand Sharma, senior party MP Karan Singh, and Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor and Salman Khurshid. Krishna said he had stepped down to make way for “younger blood” and had brought in transparency in the working of the external affairs ministry during his tenure. Some ministers holding more than one portfolio, such as Kapil Sibal, CP Joshi, Vayalar Ravi and Salman Khurshid, may be relieved of one ministry, while some ministers of state, such as Sachin Pilot and Jyotiraditya Scindia, are likely to be elevated. The death of Vilasrao Deshmukh, who was minister for science and technology, had led to a vacancy for a cabinet post for a leader from Maharashtra.
Ministers who resigned
SM Krishna, Ambika Soni, Mukul Wasnik (Social Justice and Empowerment), Subodh Kant Sahay (Social Justice and Empowerment), Mahadeo Singh Khandela (Minister of State for Tribal Affairs), Vincent Pala (Minister of State for Water Resources and Minority Affairs) and Agatha Sangma (Minister of State for Rural Development).
Congress leaders such as Sachin Pilot, Ratanjit Pratap Narain Singh, Jyotiraditya Madhavrao Scindia and Milind Deora