Sonia meets Singh, discusses names


Staff member
New Delhi:

The ruling Congress party's chief Sonia Gandhi yesterday held a private meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ahead of the up-coming cabinet reshuffle.

Sources in the Congress party indicated that the reshuffle is expected as early as Monday.

Sonia drove down to Singh's 7, Race Course Road residence where the two leaders met for over 45 minutes. It is understood they discussed names of incumbent ministers to be axed and the list of new names to be inducted into the council of ministers.

This was the third meeting regarding the matter between the top two leaders of the party.

Although, constitutionally, it is the prime minister's prerogative to name his council of ministers, Sonia has been taking a keen interest in the exercise. Recently, she held one-on-one meetings with some of the ministers belonging to her party.

Saturday's meeting between Sonia and Singh took place a day after President Pratibha Patil returned to the capital after a week-long stay in Andhra Pradesh.

The cabinet reshuffle had become unavoidable following resignations of two ministers. While Mamata Banerjee quit as the railways minister after taking over as the West Bengal chief minister in May, Dayanidhi Maran quit as the textile minister on Thursday after the Central Bureau of Investigation informed the Supreme Court that there was enough evidence to prosecute him in the telecom scam.

Corporate affairs minister Murli Deora had on Tuesday offered to quit and work for the party but was asked by the Congress president to continue until the reshuffle takes place.

It is by now clear that the reshuffle would not be drastic in nature since the top four ministries — home, finance, defence and external affairs, are unlikely to witness any change.

Some underperforming ministers like Deora are expected to be dropped, some new faces may be inducted as junior ministers while some junior ministers who represent the younger generation may be promoted as cabinet ministers.

Incidentally, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, who is chief troubleshooter of the government, yesterday called on the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) president M. Karunanidhi in Chennai to find out if the DMK would like to nominate anyone in Maran's place.

Reports suggest the DMK is unlikely to propose any fresh name since Singh is opposed to inducting its parliamentary party leader T.R. Baalu as a minister.

DMK had three cabinet ministers when Singh formed the government in 2009 after getting a second successive term. The southern party will now have just one cabinet minister in the government after resignations of A. Raja, who is in prison as an accused in the telecom scam, and Maran.

Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress is keen on retaining the railway portfolio.