In a crackdown on dissidence, Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy dropped his Health Minister D.L. Ravindra Reddy in a sudden though not unexpected development here on Saturday evening.

A harsh critic of Mr. Kiran Reddy since the past two years, Dr. Ravindra Reddy was away in London along with his family when the Chief Minister decided to sack him. The Minister is expected to return to the city on June 4.

The Chief Minister had cut the Minister to size last year when he split the Health portfolio and entrusted the crucial subject of Medical Education to a newcomer in the Cabinet, Kondru Murali Mohan. As this had no effect on Dr. Ravindra Reddy, Mr. Kiran Reddy has been pressing the high command for nearly one year for permission to sack the Minister to take the party effectively to the people in an election year.

He apparently received the green signal to remove Dr. Ravindra Reddy when he met Congress president Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi on Friday. In a swift move on Saturday evening, he sent a letter to Governor E.S.L. Narasimhan recommending the Minister’s dismissal. Dr. Reddy is the second Minister after Dr. P. Shankar Rao to be dropped by Chief Minister Kiran Reddy.

The sacking of Dr. Ravindra Reddy comes close on the resignations of two other Ministers Dharmana Prasada Rao and Sabitha Indra Reddy in what is being seen as the Congress high command’s resolve to clean up the Cabinet and the party. The two Ministers were named in the charge-sheet filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the disproportionate assets case against Kadapa MP Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy.