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Ministers' appraisal soon, may trigger Cabinet rejig

By Saubhadra Chatterji in New Delhi
December 28, 2009 11:28 IST
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Over the next month, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is expected to review the performance of his ministerial colleagues in their first six months in office.

This review exercise could be a precursor to a Cabinet reshuffle, the first since the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government entered its second term in office.

The UPA government completed its first six months in office this week. Top sources in the Manmohan Singh Cabinet indicated that the PM and Congress President Sonia Gandhi feel such an exercise would send the right message across the government and to a wider public that the government means business.

The second UPA government took oath on May 22, 2009, five years after the first UPA government was sworn in. While setting the benchmarks for the new government, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh emphasised on the need for a performance assessment of  ministers. This included first-timers like Sachin Pilot, M K Alagiri, Krishna Tirath and others.

In the president's speech on the first day of the 15th Lok Sabha, Pratibha Patil also announced that there would be regular reviews of the council of ministers. She committed her government to "establishing mechanisms for performance monitoring and performance evaluation in government on a regular basis" for this purpose.

The party believes the performance review could be dovetailed with a Cabinet reshuffle, which is due. "There are 79 heads (including the prime minister) in the council of ministers. So, there is hardly any scope of adding more ministers as the upper limit for number of ministers is 83. If a review process takes place, it could lead to shifting out some ministers," said a senior minister of UPA.

Aspirants are looking forward to the possibility of a reshuffle. A Lok Sabha MP belonging to an ally of the Congress in the UPA opted out of a Parliamentary delegation to Egypt, Turkey and Greece to stay put in Delhi in the hope of being called to Rashtrapati Bhavan. He was told by his party chief that his name had been forwarded to the PM as a ministerial candidate whenever a reshuffle takes place.

Sonia Gandhi is likely to take a final call on the reshuffle as she has to decide the fate of some ministers who are also holding heavy organisational responsibilities. Ghulam Nabi Azad, Prithviraj Chavan, Veerappa Moily are in charge of states on behalf of the party and they also hold key portfolios in the second UPA government.

A section of the Congress thinks that Sonia might finally apply the principle of "one man, one post" and may ask these ministers to choose between organisational responsibilities and ministerial berths.

With elections to state legislatures in Maharashtra and Jharkhand out of the way and no important elections scheduled for 2010, this is regarded as an opportune time for a reshuffle by some political observers.

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Saubhadra Chatterji in New Delhi
Source: source
 

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