NEW DELHI: The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh is expected to expand the Union Council of Ministers after the conclusion of presidential elections on July 19, reports claimed on Thursday.
The resignation of the Congress veteran, Mr Pranab Mukherjee as Union Finance Minister, after he entered the race to Raisina, and of Virbhadra Singh in the wake of allegations of corruption, a has necessitated the need for reshuffle-cum-expansion of the Union Cabinet.
The Prime Minister is currently holding the Finance Ministry portfolio after Mr Pranab Mukherjee stepped down last month, but there is speculation that Mr Singh may hand over the department to a senior minister. Mr Chidambaram has in recent days been making statements on the state of the economy, which some analysts have read as a sign that he is being primed for the Finance Ministry, where he served before being moved to the Home Ministry following the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack.
Dr Manmohan Singh may induct young MPs into his Ministry, but Rahul Gandhi is evidently not keen on taking up a responsibility. The post of the Leader of the Lok Sabha has also fallen vacant, now that Mr Mukherjee has moved on and the names of the Union Home Minister, Mr P Chidambaram, the Power Minister, Mr Sushil Kumar Shinde, the Urban Development Minister, Mr Kamal Nath and the Oil Minister,Mr S Jaipal Reddy are in the reckoning.
Besides, the Prime Minister has to appoint Mr Mukherjee’s successor in key cabinet committees on Security, Economic Affairs and Political Affairs. The Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs, which too was headed by Mr Mukherjee, also needs to be reconstituted.
It is widely believed that Dr Manmohan Singh may bring in young leaders into his council of ministers.
The Union External Affairs Minister, Mr S M Krishna had recently suggested that Rahul Gandhi take up a ministerial appointment, but the indications from within the Congress party are that Mr Rahul Gandhi is not keen about it.
The Prime Minister, while returning from a visit to Mexico and Brazil last month, had indicated that a cabinet reshuffle was on the anvil but declined to comment on the timing.
With Mr Mukherjee’s exit from the Cabinet, there is a felt need to include members from Paschim Banga in the council of ministers. Mr Mukherjee was the only Congress minister from the State in the Cabinet.
The Congress has six Lok Sabha members from the State; its ally, the Trinamool Congress, has 19. The State sends 42 members to the Lok Sabha. Pradip Bhattacharya, the State Congress chief, is the party’s lone Rajya Sabha MP from the State.