Saturday, January 18, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Cabinet reshuffle in 2 phases likely
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 17
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee is understood to be toying with the idea of reshuffling his Council of Ministers in two phases, the first in the last week of this month and the second in April-May coinciding with the organisational elections of the BJP.

Well-placed political sources told The Tribune today that the Prime Minister had been advised to have a minor reshuffle which may see as few as only three ministers being inducted into the Union Cabinet.

The three ministers to be inducted in this reshuffle, tipped to take place any day between January 24 and 31, are Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, Gujarat BJP heavyweight and former Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel and Minister of State for Shipping Thirunaru K. Karasar.

While an influential section of the BJP, including Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, is having reservations about the reinduction of Ms Mamata Banerjee in the Union Cabinet, the Prime Minister is understood to be quite keen on making her the minister yet again.

Mr Keshubhai Patel is reportedly not very keen on coming to the Central Government. Minister of State for Shipping Thirunaru K. Karasar is likely to be rewarded with the full-fledged Cabinet rank in the same ministry. Sources, however, expressed confidence that Mr Patel would fall in line. The present Shipping Minister Ved Prakash Goyal may be given some other portfolio.

The sources pointed out that the entire situation was in a state of flux and whether the Prime Minister would have a major reshuffle this very month or a staggered one, spread in two phases, would depend on the outcome of the crucial January 20 meeting of top BJP functionaries of the states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Delhi.

This meeting, convened here by President Venkaiah Naidu, is to decide the BJP strategy for these four states which are to go to the polls this year end.

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