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PM, Sonia discuss impending Cabinet reshuffle

New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi have held another round of consultations on the expected reshuffle of the Union Cabinet, as per reports on Tuesday. This was the second meeting between the two leaders in the past one week on the issue.

Ahead of the promised “expansive changes” in his Council of Ministers, Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi have been engaged in a careful exercise to assess the performances of ministers, their suitability in current and future portfolios, and gaps in caste and regional representation.

In the event of Singh and Gandhi wrapping up their discussions on the Cabinet reshuffle soon, the exercise could take place before July 2.

There have been calls for getting rid of non-performing ministers and for promoting younger leaders.

"Only a change in the top posts can result in a drastic overhaul of the Cabinet" a newspaper quoted a senior leader as saying.

Congress circles are eagerly awaiting the ministerial reshuffle because of its implications for key leaders. While some of them want a change in their portfolios, a few are keen to guard their present assignments.

Also, the party is likely to see some names dropped from the Centre for party assignments. These names are awaited with greater anticipation, as are others which are to be inducted.

The five state polls conducted in the last couple of months turned out to be an important indicator of popular mood about the Congress.

The polls were a mixed bag for Congress, with a scrape through in Kerala coming as a jolt against the comprehensive victory in Assam. The Left`s debacle, on the other hand, in West Bengal at the hands of Trinamool-led alliance was a matter of satisfaction.

Home Minister P Chidambaram and HRD Minister Kapil Sibal have emerged as the troubleshooters for the Prime Minister. They are assisted by Minority Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid. This means they could get portfolios of their choice in this exercise.

Defence Minister AK Antony, known as “Mr Clean”, cannot be demoted. And Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has been carrying the burden of the entire government, keeping the allies, supporting parties and the opposition in good humour since last seven years. External Affairs has always been under the PM irrespective of who is heading the ministry.

However, it is still unclear whether this would affect the top five ministries. Ministers like Kapil Sibal are holding more than one portfolio.

Even as speculation rages on the timing and enormity of the changes, Congress hopes a dramatic change in the Council of Ministers will energize its workers and send out a message that it means business.

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