PM-Sonia meet amid talk of Cabinet reshuffle

New Delhi/Chennai: Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Saturday met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh giving further momentum to the talk of an imminent Cabinet reshuffle possible early next week.

The meeting this morning comes in the aftermath of resignation of Textiles Minister Dayanidhi Maran and the offer of resignation by Corporate Affairs Minister Murli Deora, apparently lending a sense of urgency to the long speculated exercise of restructuring of the Union Council of Ministers.

Singh-Gandhi meeting also came even as senior party leader Pranab Mukherjee met DMK chief Karunanidhi in Chennai and discussed the current political situation.

It was not clear whether the DMK would be sending replacements for Maran and former telecom minister A Raja, who both had to quit on the 2G issue. Reports had it that the DMK may not be keen on such replacements immediately.

Mukherjee merely said, "There is a lot of speculation whether the alliance between Congress and DMK is continuing or not.

"My respectful submission is this alliance is there, the alliance will continue and it will be strengthened."

There has been speculation for a long time about the cabinet expansion and reshuffle as the Prime Minister himself had spoken about a "more expansive exercise" after he undertook a rejig of the Cabinet in January.

In his recent interaction with print editors, Singh had said the the reshuffle of the Cabinet was a "work in progress".

There are a number of vacancies in the Union Cabinet like Railways, following resignation of Mamata Banerjee who became West Bengal chief minister, and Textiles in the wake of Dayanidhi Maran`s resignation on the 2G issue.

There are a number of ministers holding dual charge like Kapil Sibal who has Telecom and HRD. P K Bansal handles portfolios of Science and Technology, Earth Sciences and Parliamentary Affairs.

Elevation of some of the ministers particularly from Uttar Pradesh which is goes to polls next year is expected.

There is also possibility of dropping some ministers considered to be non-performing.

Mukherjee parried a pointed question whether he had discussed with Karunanidhi the issue of DMK giving names of its leaders to replace Maran and Raja.

Law Minister M Veerappa Moily expressed confidence he would continue in the ministry.

"Do you have any doubt about it," he told reporters when asked whether he would continue in the government after the proposed reshuffle.

He said reshuffle was the prerogative of the Prime Minister and he had no no comments on it.

Meanwhile, Sibal met the Prime Minister on Saturday.