Saturday, October 13, 2001, Chandigarh, India





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Cabinet expansion on Oct 15
Pant may get Defence portfolio

New Delhi, October 12
The Union Council of Ministers is being expanded on Monday with the addition of one or two ministers.

Asked whether he would expand or reshuffle his ministry on Monday, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said here tonight “Yes, I will.”

Specifically asked if it would be a ministry expansion, the Prime Minister said: “I will make one or two additions (in the ministry).”

The name of Planning Commission Deputy Chairman K.C. Pant is being mentioned in the ruling NDA circles for the Defence portfolio amid speculation that External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh may be relieved of the additional responsibility of Defence.

Mr Vajpayee also indicated that he might carry out some changes in portfolios.

To a question if former Defence Minister George Fernandes would be reinducted into the Cabinet, he said. “I cannot say anything on this.”

Mr Pant, who had earlier held the Defence portfolio under Rajiv Gandhi, is Centre’s interlocutor on Kashmir.

There has been criticism about Mr Jaswant Singh holding two portfolios, especially at a time when the security situation assumes significance in the wake of terrorist attacks in the USA and the military operations in Afghanistan.

Mr Jaswant Singh was entrusted with the additional charge of the Defence Ministry following  the resignation of Mr George Fernandes in the wake of the Tehelka expose in defence deals.

Among those who are likely to be affected by the reshuffle are Civil Aviation Minister Shahnawaz Hussain whose handling of the recent Alliance Air plane hijack had come in for severe criticism from various quarters.

Irked by the manner in which the entire issue was handled, Mr Vajpayee ordered a high-level inquiry to be headed by a Special Secretary in the Home Ministry even after the minister had instituted a probe into it by the Director-General of Civil Aviation.

The current strength of the Union Council of Ministers is 71, including 30 Cabinet ministers, six Ministers of State with independent charge and 34 Ministers of State. PTI
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PM to visit Russia

New Delhi, October 12
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee will visit Russia in the first week of November, officials said here today.

The Prime Minister, who earlier cancelled his visits to the USA and Australia in the wake of September 11 terrorist attacks, is likely to hold discussions with Russian leaders on the global campaign against terrorism. UNI
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