New Delhi, Jan 18 (PTI) The much-talked about reshuffleand expansion of the Union Council of Ministers will takeplace at 5 PM tomorrow amidst indications that SalmanKhurshid, Praful Patel and Jairam Ramesh could be elevated toCabinet rank.
Indications also emerged that the ''big four'' incumbentsin Finance, Home, Defence and External Affairs may not bedisturbed in the reshuffle, the first in the UPA-II after itretained power in May 2009.
Singh, who held discussions today for over two hourswith Congress President Sonia Gandhi, gave finishing touchesto tomorrow''s exercise which Congress sources said would be a"moderate" affair.Gandhi was accompanied by her Political SecretaryAhmed Patel in the discussions with Singh. In the evening,senior leader and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee metGandhi.
In the reshuffle, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar mayshed Consumer Affairs, one of the three portfolios he has,while Kapil Sibal may give up Science and Technology.
Sibal, who was given recently additional charge ofTelecom in the wake of exit of A Raja, may retain that. Butthere is speculation that HRD, which he holds, could go to MVeerappa Moily in case Khurshid takes over as Law Minister, aportfolio currently with Moily.
Equally strongly a section in the party feels thatSibal may continue to hold the HRD to maintain continunity inthe ministry because he initiated a series of reforms.
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There is speculation that Jyotiraditya Scindia, currently MoS Commerce, may be shifted to External Affairs.
Shashi Tharoor who was MoS in the External Affairs ministryhad to resign last year in the wake of IPL controversy.
With the possible elevation of Khurshid and moving toLaw, Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman K Rahman Khan could be thenew MoS for Minority Affairs.
The new faces being mentioned for possible induction arefirst timers in Parliament Meenakshi Natarajan, ManishTiwari, Manicka Tagore.
Rajiv Shukla of Congress, Sudip Bandopadhyay ofTrinamool Congress and a DMK representative either T R Baaluor T K S Elangovan could be inducted. Baalu met the PrimeMinister this morning.
Those who could face the axe include M S Gill (Sports),Virbhadra Singh (Steel), B K Handique (Mines), C P Joshi(Rural Development) and Vilasrao Deshmukh (Heavy Industry).
Deshmukh and Joshi could be drafted for party work withthe reconstitution of the AICC on the cards immediately afterthe ministerial reshuffle.Significantly, Virbhadra Singh and Tribal AffairsMinister Kantilal Bhuria were among the Congress leaderswho met the party President today against speculation abouttheir fate.
For the vacancy created by the resignation ofPrithviraj Chavan as MoS in the PMO, the names of ManishTiwari and Ajay Maken are doing the rounds. Maken is now MoSin the Home Affairs.