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External affairs minister S.M. Krishna stepped down from his post on Friday. Photo: Mint (Mint)
External affairs minister S.M. Krishna stepped down from his post on Friday. Photo: Mint

Krishna resigns; cabinet reshuffle likely to include young leaders

Krishna’s resignation from his post ahead of the reshuffle indicates changes are likely in key departments

New Delhi: The cabinet reshuffle likely this Sunday will include a restructuring of the Congress party as well to prepare for upcoming crucial assembly elections, according to party leaders aware of the developments.

The cabinet reshuffle may see a group of young leaders entering government, two Congress leaders said, declining to be named.

External affairs minister S.M. Krishna stepped down from his post on Friday ahead of the reshuffle, indicating changes are likely in key departments. Information and broadcasting minister Ambika Soni is likely to take up a role in the Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi’s inner circle, one of the Congress leaders said.

Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi, the party’s general secretary, have been finalizing details of changes in the party organization, also meant to prepare the Congress for the 2014 general election. The party chief wants to reorganize the Punjab unit of the party, he added.

As part of efforts to improve the government’s image after a series of corruption scandals, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is likely to induct fresh faces and elevate some young members recommended by Rahul Gandhi into his council of ministers, party leaders said.

The government may have new representatives from West Bengal—where it recently snapped ties with the state’s ruling Trinamool Congress, and Andhra Pradesh, where it is struggling to find a solution to the intensifying demand for a separate Telangana state.

Kotla Jaya Surya Prakash Reddy and Balram Naik from Andhra Pradesh, Abu Hasem Khan Choudhury from West Bengal and Pradip Majhi from Orrisa are likely to join the government.

Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari is also expected to be inducted, while ministers of state Jyotiraditya Scindia and Sachin Pilot may be promoted. Actor-turned-politician from Andhra Pradesh Chiranjeevi and former deputy chairman of the Rajya Sabha Rehman Khan also are likely to join the government.

Law minister Salman Khurshid, urban development minister Kamal Nath and commerce minister Anand Sharma are being considered as replacements for Krishna in the foreign ministry, according to the Congress leaders.

Mint reported on 17 September that Krishna was likely to be dropped from the Cabinet. Petroleum minister S. Jaipal Reddy and tourism minister Subodh Kant Sahay may also leave the Cabinet.

Congress morale took a further beating when allegations of irregularities in land deals were made against Robert Vadra, son-in-law of the Congress chief, but the party received a mild boost last week after its pro-growth measures started showing “some results", said a Congress minister, who too did not want to be identified.

“The party leadership and the Prime Minister feel a little relieved sensing that we got some breathing space. Now they are confident that the party can improve its electoral prospects using the time period (till the next general election) effectively," the minister said.

The minister said the government is also preparing to introduce a series of welfare measures and after elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh may ease its recent limit on the supply of subsidized cooking gas cylinders to nine a year per household from the present cap of six.

“The Election Commission may oppose it if we announce the decision now," the minister said. Elections will be held in Himachal Pradesh on 4 November and in Gujarat on 13 and 17 December.

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