A Cabinet reshuffle could be on the cards with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh keen on giving up the finance portfolio he has come to hold after shifting P Chidambaram to the Home Ministry. The vacancy in the Home Ministry was caused by Shivraj Patil’s resignation in the wake of the Mumbai terrorist attack.
Former Karnataka Chief Minister SM Krishna is in the race for a cabinet slot. But it wasn’t immediately clear whether he would get finance or another portfolios under the PM’s concurrent charge: Information and Broadcasting and Environment.
Singh has had a meeting with Krishna, a Rajya Sabha member whose name earlier figured in informal discussions in top Congress quarters for the coveted finance portfolio. “No decision has been taken yet. But Krishna is a contender for a cabinet berth,” a knowledgeable source told the Hindustan Times.
The PM obviously is most qualified to head the Ministry that has to often deal with the Planning Commission and the Reserve Bank -- where he has been Deputy Chairman and Governor respectively in the past besides serving as PV Narasimha Rao’s Finance Minister.
Such work requirements could bring into the reckoning Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia and former RBI governor C Rangarajan, now a nominated member of the Upper House of Parliament. “But preference for a political person in the run up to the Lok Sabha polls makes Krishna the frontrunner,” said a Cabinet Minister.
The Finance Ministry has two junior ministers -- Pawan Bansal for Expenditure, Banking and Insurance and SS Palanimanickam for Revenue—whose services can be utilised for parliamentary work during the extended Budget session opening on Wednesday. “But the PM feels the need for a full-fledged Cabinet level replacement for Chidambaram,” the Minister said.
Singh took charge of I&B from an ailing Priyaranjan Dasmunshi and that of Environment from the DMK’s A Raja who shifted to Telecommunications after Dayanidhi Maran fell out with Tamil Nadu CM M Karunanidhi and was divested of his Cabinet berth.
Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma has concurrent charge of I&B -- where again a full-timer is needed to propagate the government’s achievements in the ongoing poll season.