Thangal meets Sonia

NEW DELHI, JULY 24. Amid speculation about a Cabinet reshuffle in Kerala to prop up the flagging image of the United Democratic Front (UDF) Government, the State unit president of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), Panakkad Mohammad Ali Shihab Thangal, met the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, here this evening along with the Union Minister of State for External Affairs, E. Ahamed, and the Kerala Industries Minister, P. K. Kunhalikutty.

`A courtesy call'

The meeting lasted about a quarter of an hour and none of the three leaders of the IUML -- which is a key ally of the Congress in the UDF in Kerala -- were willing to speak to the media afterwards about what transpired. All that Mr. Kunhalikutty said was that `it was a courtesy call'.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Thangal met the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, and the AICC general secretary in-charge of Kerala, Ahmed Patel. In fact, he had a rather long meeting with Mr. Patel and it is understood that detailed discussions on the Cabinet reshuffle will take place in Kerala during the Congressman's forthcoming visit to the State early next month.

The performance of the UDF Government is also said to have come up for discussion during the IUML delegation's meeting with Ms. Gandhi.

Though Mr. Thangal is in regular contact with Ms. Gandhi over the telephone, today's meeting was a rare occasion as he is not a frequent visitor to the capital. He is here purportedly to participate in the `house warming' ceremony of Mr. Ahamed who is shifting to his ministerial residence on Sunday. En route, Mr. Thangal had stopped over in Ahmedabad to hand over 40 houses built by IUML for the victims of the Gujarat carnage.

Ministers meet Sonia

In a related development, leaders of two other allies of the Congress in the UDF -- K. R. Gouri of the Janadhipatya Samrakshana Samithi (JSS) and K. M. Mani of the Kerala Congress (M) -- met Ms. Gandhi today along with the Finance Minister, K. Shankaranarayanan, apparently to discuss the crisis within the farming community of the State. However, Mr. Mani had met Ms. Gandhi separately on Friday night to discuss State politics and followed it up today with a detailed meeting with Mr. Patel.

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