Oct 262012

The 80-year-old leader from Karnataka is believed to have sent his resignation to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the afternoon, sources said.

Indications are that with the assembly elections due before next May in Karnataka, the former chief minister may be given a party assignment in the state.

The resignation is also a clear indication that the Union Council of Ministers is set for a revamp on Sunday with the induction of new faces considered close to Rahul Gandhi and elevation of some young ministers of state.

Whether Gandhi himself would join the government or not was still a matter of speculation though sources say that sometime back he was inclined towards such a possibility.

Krishna was made the external affairs minister immediately after the elections in 2009 when UPA came back to power for the second time. His name has been part of the speculation whenever there was speculation about a Cabinet reshuffle.

With less than 72 hours to go for Manmohan Singh to rejig his Cabinet in accordance with Rahul Gandhi’s wishes, anxiety has begun to grip Congress circles over what might unfold on Sunday.

Some see the exercise as an opportunity to showcase a new-found governance-related urgency which has already found reflection in reforms initiatives, and to change the focus of headlines from corruption and paralysis in the UPA. But others feel the exercise could be used as a springboard to bring in a younger set as part of the political messaging ahead of 2014.

Party circles on Thursday were thick with speculation that foreign minister S M Krishna and environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan may be assigned other tasks. Tourism minister S K Sahay faces a risk of being dropped as part of the effort to contain the Coalgate fallout. He was in the dock for recommending allocation of coal blocks to a company that had his brother as a director. Coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal seems to be safe but may see a shift in his portfolio as part of the damage-control exercise.

Kapil Sibal may be asked to shed one of his two portfolios. He started off as the HRD minister, but speculation is that he may be asked to continue looking after telecom now that the 2G mess has been sorted out considerably. However, Sibal may also replace Krishna if the latter is shifted out of the foreign ministry.

There is also interest in C P Joshi’s future. He held the highways portfolio before he was given additional charge of railways in the wake of Trinamool’s exit – widely interpreted as reflecting Rahul’s backing for the first-time member of Lok Sabha.

Amid speculation, Joshi held discussions with the Planning Commission deputy chairman on “PPP model for railways”: hardly a sign of somebody who feels he may be shunted out.

Jyotiraditya Scindia, minister of state, is likely to get an elevation – independent charge of a ministry, if not Cabinet rank. Sachin Pilot is another young turk whose stock seems to be on the rise.

The reshuffle will be followed by touching up of the organization where Rahul is likely to get a fresh projection, designation notwithstanding. The possibility of Rahul’s elevation has set off murmurs about its possible repercussions, the most notable speculation being if he would make “his team”. Senior leaders are jittery on how it could affect their clout.

If Rahul brings in young leaders, it could come at the cost of apparatchiks who have manned the organizational bureaucracy. The issue has been the single big cause of friction, finally nudging the young leader to bring more synergy between the mother outfit and the Youth Congress.


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