Murli Deora, Bhuria & Gill likely to be dropped

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will make the much-anticipated changes in his Council of Ministers on Tuesday evening. The swearing-in has been slated for 5 p.m., sources in the government said. This decision follows the fourth and final meeting between the Prime Minister and Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Monday.

While the top four Ministers holding the Finance, Home, Defence and External Affairs portfolios will not be touched, Minister of Corporate Affairs Murli Deora, Tribal Affairs Minister Kantilal Bhuria and Minister of Statistics and Programme Implementation M.S. Gill are likely to be dropped, the sources said.

Two new entrants will be the Trinamool Congress' Dinesh Trivedi, who is to be given the Railways portfolio, and Beni Prasad Verma, currently Minister of State for Steel (independent charge).

There is a tussle on who will hold the Law and Human Resource Development portfolios. The sources said there was an effort at moving Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily to another slot.

On the other hand, Kapil Sibal, who holds both the Telecom and HRD portfolios, is expected to shed one. The sources say he is keen on keeping HRD; the leadership wants him to continue to tackle the tricky Telecom Ministry. As things stand, Mr. Sibal and Home Minister P. Chidambaram are seen, Congress sources said, as the “faces” of this government.

Of the new entrants expected, there is Paban Singh Ghatowar from Assam's Dibrugarh constituency. The sources said Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi had pointed out, after his third consecutive victory in the Assembly elections, that his State was not adequately represented in the Union Council of Ministers, with only Minister of Development of Northeastern Region B.K. Handique in the Cabinet — and there is talk that he could be dropped. Then, the Trinamool Congress' Sudip Bandopadhyay is slated to come in as a Minister of State, while Gurudas Kamat, MoS for Communications and Information Technology, is expected to be elevated and given independent charge. Two other Ministers of State, E. Ahamed and Jyotiradiya Scindia, could be similarly rewarded.

Others who could be inducted include Milind Deora, MP from South Mumbai; Rajya Sabha MP Ashok Ganguly; and Charandas Mahant, Congress MP from Chhattisgarh.

As for the election-bound States of U.P., Punjab and Uttarakhand, some changes are expected. In U.P., apart from Mr. Verma being elevated to the Cabinet, it is learnt, Minority Affairs and Water Resources Minister Salman Khursheed may get a weightier portfolio, and actor-MP Raj Babbar could be inducted.

In the case of Punjab, if Mr. Gill is dropped, there would have to be a replacement. The names being taken are Partap Singh Bajwa, a Jat Sikh like Mr. Gill, and Mohinder Singh Kaypee, the Dalit MP from Jalandhar. However, Mr. Kaypee is not in the country. Of course, Captain Amrinder Singh, the current PCC chief, is a Jat Sikh himself, and his wife Preneet Kaur is in the Union Council of Ministers, while Mr. Kaypee could better represent Punjab's large Dalit population, especially as there is talk that the Akali Dal could have a tie-up with the Bahujan Samaj Party, sources said.

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