The UPA Cabinet is getting a fresh coat of paint. By all indications, after Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting where more reform-oriented moves—like raising the cap of FDI in insurance from 26 to 49 per cent—are expected, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is finalising a proposed Cabinet reshuffle that would bring all infrastructure ministries back into the Congress fold.
The exit of Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee’s lieutenant and absentee railways minister Mukul Roy (he attended only 22 days of office in the six months he was minister) has opened up the opportunity of installing a Congress leader at the helm of the vital infrastructure portfolio, ignoring the claims of UPA allies like DMK and NCP.
The first indication came on Saturday, when the railways ministry was awarded as additional charge to Surface Transport Minister C P Joshi, known to be a Rahul Gandhi acolyte. Manmohan and Sonia Gandhi are expected to negotiate other cabinet berths with Sharad Pawar, who is seeking one for NCP veteran Tariq Anwar. Sources say the Congress will be offering him only an MoS position with independent charge.
After the initial embarrassment and uncertainty created by Banerjee’s withdrawal of support and the subsequent resignation of TMC ministers, the Congress top brass is moving fast to fill the vacancies—one Cabinet post and six MoS. To annoy Banerjee, it is learnt that the Congress is planning to induct her bugbears, Deepa Dasmunshi and/or Adhir Choudhury, into government.