New Delhi: Ahead of Sunday’s reshuffle of the Union Council of Ministers, seven ministers resigned from the central government on Saturday and President Pranab Mukherjee has reportedly accepted their resignation. The Congress's message is clear: strong party, young government. Sources also tell CNN IBN, that Shashi Tharoor might make a comeback.
Incumbent minister of state for rural development of the Nationalist Congress Party Agatha Sangma and MoS for Water Resources and Minority Affairs Vincent H Pala submitted their resignations on Saturday evening.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni, Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Mukul Wasnik and Tourism Minister Subodh Kant Sahay and MoS Justice and Empowerment Mahadev Khandela met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and submitted their resignations earlier in the day. President Pranab Mukherjee has accepted the resignations of all seven union ministers. External Affairs Minister S M Krishna quit the government earlier, on Friday.
Sources also told CNN IBN that Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma is likely to be the next External Affairs Minister. According to NDTV, HRD and Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal, who was earlier being considered for the post, is now out of the race, but he could also lose the HRD ministry. Union Minister for Law Salman Khurshid may also lose his minority affairs portfolio, while Andhra Pradesh MP Daggubati Purandeswari is likely to get the Commerce Ministry . Urban Development Minister Kamal Nath is likely to get additional charge of Parliamentary Affairs while Sachin Pilot and Jyotiraditya Scindia might get independent portfolios. They are currently ministers of state. Ajay Maken is likely to join Cabinet, while CP Joshi is expected to retain Railway Ministry.Even KH Muniyappa may be upgraded.
SM Krishna had on Friday resigned as the External Affairs Minister ahead of the Cabinet reshuffle. Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni, Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Mukul Wasnik and Tourism Minister Subodh Kant Sahai and MoS Justice and Empowerment Mahadev Khandela met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and submitted their resignations.
The ceremony for swearing-in of new ministers is scheduled at 11.30 hours at the Rashtrapati Bhavan on Sunday when a number of new faces are likely to be inducted.
Prominent among them are actor-turned politician Chiranjeevi from Andhra Pradesh and A H Khan Chowdhry, MP from West Bengal, who is also the brother of the late Ghani Khan Chowdhry.
Sahai's name had cropped up in a controversy following media expose that he had recommended for allocation of coal block a company in Jharkhand in which his brother was a director.
Offering their resignation, Soni, Wasnik and Sahai said they will work for the party. Soni was Congress general secretary for several years and was political secretary to Congress president Sonia Gandhi while Wasnik was handling the dual responsibility of Congress general secretary as well as Union minister.
Before meeting the prime minister, Sahai said on Saturday that Congress president Sonia Gandhi called him to draft him for party work.
"It is an honour to work for the party. I am offering my resignation to Prime Minister. Party president (Sonia Gandhi) and others want me to work for the party so I will be working to strengthen the party as the party is supreme. We are in the government because of the party. Party is supreme and will always be supreme," he said.
Soni said, "I have taken prime minister's permission to resign. It is not appropriate if I do it on my own so I have taken his permission and explained it to him". Asked if she was willing to work for the party, she said, "I think it is an honour."
Wasnik said, "I have been working for the organisation for the last several years and I would like to work for the organisation."
The reshuffle of the Union Cabinet, which could be the last before 2014 Lok Sabha elections, is expected to see induction of new faces in the government.
Chiranjeevi is being rewarded for his help in ensuring stability of the Congress government in Andhra Pradesh by lending the support of 18 of his MLAs after the merger of his party PRP.
The other changes could include ministers holding dual portfolios shedding one of their responsibilities.
With inputs from Agencies