Cabinet expansion today; Soren to be back
New Delhi, November 26
Labour Minister Seesram Ola, who yields the portfolio to Mr Rao, will be in charge of the Mines Ministry, official sources said late tonight. Mr Rao is at present a Cabinet Minister without portfolio.
A Rashtrapati Bhavan spokesman said the expansion of the Union Council of Ministers would take place at 3 pm tomorrow.
Although there had been speculation about a major Cabinet revamp for weeks, the pulls and compulsion of running a coalition have apparently forced Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to keep it a limited exercise.
Mr Soren, who held the Coal and Mines portfolio, had to step down after non-bailable warrants were issued against him in a decades-old riots case. He has been wanting to get back his old portfolio since he was granted bail.
This minor expansion comes a day ahead of the Prime Ministerís visit to Laos to attend the third India-ASEAN summit and ahead of the winter session of Parliament, beginning December 1.
In the case of the TRS leader, Mr Rao was originally given the Shipping portfolio, but he voluntarily surrendered it when the DMK staked claim to it.
Meanwhile, in an effort to quell any criticism from both within and outside the UPA on the non-implementation of its common minimum programme (CMP), the ruling combine today decided to introduce the National Rural Employment Guarantee Bill in the winter session of Parliament and constitute a sub-committee to look into the Telengana issue.
These key decisions were taken at a meeting of the UPA coordination committee tonight, convened essentially to discuss the agenda and floor strategy for the coming Parliament session, beginning December 1. A total of 20 Bills, of which 11 are in the high priority list, will be taken up in this session, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram told mediapersons after the UPA meeting.
The meeting also decided that the government would ascertain the final views of all political parties, both in and outside the UPA, on the Womenís reservation Bill.
Although the CMP had specifically promised a job guarantee Bill, this has been a topic of intense debate in the government, with the Planning Commission and the Finance Ministry expressing reservations about raising resources for its implementation.
These reservations were obviously overruled at todayís meeting.
The decision on the constitution of a UPA sub-committee on issues pertaining to the formation of a separate Telengana state was obviously meant to mollify Mr Chandrashekhar Rao of the Telengana Rashtriya Samiti (TRS), a UPA partner.
Mr Rao met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi before the formal meeting.
While Left parties again raised the issue of the hike in the prices of petroleum goods, Railway Minister Laloo Prasad Yadav is reported to have pointed out that the UPA ought to meet more regularly for consultations since this is not a Congress government but a coalition and they are all responsible for the smooth functioning of the government.