Redistribution preferred over reshuffle till winter session ends

New Delhi, Nov 18 | Updated: Nov 19 2005, 06:31am hrs
With Prime Minister Manmohan Singh virtually deciding on a status quo approach for the time being by opting for minor redistribution of ministerial work, a major overhaul of the Union Cabinet will become imminent once the winter session of Parliament ends.

The shrewd tactic on the part of the Prime Minister, implemented with the full backing of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, has effectively ensured that a new front is not opened where dropped ministers and unlucky aspirants gang up together to make things more difficult for the ruling dispensation.

The leadership also seems to have taken the Bihar poll results into account while deferring the decision on a major exercise. With the outcome of the polls uncertain, the fate of parties like the LJP clearly seemed to have been a factor. One scenario that is being talked about is Ram Vilas Paswan joining hands with the NDA to form the government in Bihar in case of a hung Assembly, in which case his exit from the UPA would become unavoidable.

Additionally, the Iran vote and the muscle-flexing by the Left parties, with the SP too on their side, also contributed its bit in the Prime Minister making up his mind not to go for a large shake-up now.

The decision, thus, to limit the long pending reshuffle-cum-expansion to a mere reallocation of portfolios, appears to have been agreed upon in the meeting between Prime Minister Singh and Ms Gandhi on Wednesday, but was conveyed to other highups in the party only on Thursday evening. Party circles indicated that the temporary move could be seen more as an exercise aimed at rationalising work allocation by giving more assignments to some of the underworked ministers.

For instance, Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi, as water resources minister, had been constantly complaining that his capabilities were not being utilised adequately. Similarly, Oscar Fernandes as minister in charge of programme and statistics implementation too did not have much to do.

The larger overhaul, however, is expected now in mid-January, with the leadership wanting to time it just before the AICC session in Hyderabad that begins on January 20. Party circles maintained that doing so would allow the leadership to accommodate disgruntled aspirants and other hopefuls in the party or in gubernatorial assignments.

At the AICC briefing, party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi dismissed suggestions that S Jaipal Reddy was shifted from information and broadcasting as the Prime Minister was not happy with his performance.