M A I N   N E W S

Patil, Chidambaram may be shifted
Bimal Jalan likely to be Finance Minister
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 9
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is expected to reshuffle his Council of Ministers before November 28 when he is to leave for Laos to attend the tenth ASEAN Summit, well-placed sources told The Tribune today.

It is understood that Home Minister Shivraj Patil, Finance Minister P Chidambaram and Water Resources Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunshi may be shifted.

Old Gandhi family loyalist and former Petroleum Minister Satish Sharma may get his old job, leaving the present incumbent Mani Shankar Aiyer with only the Panchayati Raj.

One of the two Congress party functionaries Mr Ahmed Patel or Ms Ambika Soni may be included in the Cabinet. AICC Treasurer Motilal Vora may also find a place in the Cabinet.

A surprise induction may be that of former Reserve Bank Governor Bimal Jalan as Finance Minister. Mr Chidamabaram may be given an important portfolio while Mr Shivraj Patil may be given the lesser portfolio of Water Resources.

External Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh may not be touched in the coming reshuffle.

The proposed Cabinet reshuffle will have the imprint of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. This will be in stark contrast to the formation of the UPA government five months ago in which the composition of the Council of Ministers was finalised by Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Dr Manmohan Singh.

Sources said the reshuffle was under the active consideration of the Prime Minister eversince he had prepared a report card of all ministries and what each ministry had achieved or not achieved in implementing the UPA programme.

The Prime Minister has already discussed the matter with UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and she has, by and large, concurred with him.

The status of Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee is not certain as it seems to be linked with what portfolio NCP strongman and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar would get in the event of Mr Pawar opting out of Agriculture.

There is speculation that Mr Pawar may get either Defence or Home.

The Finance Ministry will get special attention from the economist Prime Minister. It is a political compulsion of the Prime Minister to do something about his present team on the economic front as the Left is not too happy with the performance of Mr Chidambaram. 

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