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Reduce my workload: Pawar to PM
Anita Katyal
Our Political Correspondent

New Delhi, July 5
Coming under renewed attack for ignoring his ministerial duties after his appointment as president of the International Cricket Council (ICC), Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar today asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to reduce his work load.

In addition to agriculture, the NCP chief also looks after the consumer affairs and food and civil supplies portfolios.Confirming his meeting with the PM, Pawar said: “I met the Prime Minister today and asked him to reduce my work load since I want to devote more time for party work.”

Clarifying that his decision was not related to his additional responsibility as ICC president, the minister said he would be visiting Dubai headquarters only over weekends.Pawar’s request has triggered speculation that this could well be a precursor to a larger reshuffle of the Cabinet, which was initially said to take place before the opening of the monsoon session of Parliament. The timing of Pawar’s plea also ties in with reports about the induction of Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) chief Ajit Singh, who is keen on either of the portfolios currently held by Pawar. Ajit Singh had bailed out the government in the vote on cut motion during the budget session.

Although Pawar was being criticised for not devoting sufficient time to his ministries even before he took over as ICC chief, his detractors have sharpened their attack after this appointment and renewed their demand that his portfolios be pared down.

Pawar has been facing flak from the Opposition and UPA allies for spiralling prices of essential commodities, which has been attributed to the handling of his portfolios. Since this is not the first time that Pawar has been in the firing line, his decision to approach the PM for a reduction in his work load at this juncture has led to considerable speculation that this could set the stage for a Cabinet reshuffle. UPA sources have been indicating that there are several ministers like Prithviraj Chavan, who handles four portfolios, are overburdened while Telecommunications Minister A Raja’s continuation has become untenable after the embarrassing disclosures over the allotment of 2G spectrum.

The junior minister’s slot in the External Affairs Ministry, which fell vacant after Shashi Tharoor’s exit, is yet to be filled.

While Pawar’s decision is also being put down to medical reasons, UPA sources said he would not mind shedding the food and civil supplies portfolio fearing an adverse political fall-out in view of mounting public anger over rising prices.

Pawar was, however, keen to emphasis that he was not running away from a messy situation. 





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