Following Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s meeting with President Pranab Mukherjee, a cabinet reshuffle and expansion is on the cards and Telugu actor-turned-Congressman Chiranjeevi is all set to occupy a berth in the Union Cabinet, almost two years after his wait in the wings.
Other names making rounds are of Manish Tewari, Meenakshi Natrajan, Jyoti Mirdha, Manicka Tagore, Deepa Das Munshi or Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury from West Bengal, while Vilas Muttemwar from Maharashtra is tipped to fill the gap created by the death of Vilasrao Deshmukh.
Currently eight minister are holding dual ministries and are supposed to have been overburdened. They are Salman Khurshid and Kapil Sibal, holding the ministries of law and minority affairs and human resources and telecom while the other ministers with multiple portfolios include Vayalar Ravi (micro, small and medium enterprises, science and technology and earth sciences and overseas Indian affairs), M Veerappa Moily (power and corporate affairs), Anand Sharma (commerce and industry and textiles), Pawan Kumar Bansal (parliamentary affairs and water resources) and Kumari Selja (housing and urban poverty alleviation and culture).
In addition some ministers like Sahai are rumoured to be dropped out of the cabinet. To be held anytime next week, the cabinet expansion is sure to include Chiranjeevi and the Telangana issue is likely to weigh more in selecting ministers in the cabinet this time, sources said.
Chiranjeevi has reportedly been recommended by Andhra Pradesh state chief minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy, while Chiranjeevi reciprocated the gesture recently by ruling any change of guard in the state. “Mr. Kiran Kumar Reddy is performing well,” he said giving a clean-chit to the CM.
Chiranjeevi is currently a Rajya Sabha MP and has expressed his willingness to join the Union cabinet. Most probably, he will be offered minister of state with independent portfolio, it is learnt. Unconfirmed reports said he may be given culture ministry or Overseas Indian affairs.
Chiranjeevi merged his Praja Rajyam party with the Congress last year and played a key role in saving the state government from losing a No-Confidence motion in the state assembly in the wake of the YSR Congress and the Telangana agitation.
Chiranjeevi has openly opposed the Telangana state and any division as such. He was later given the Rajya Sabha seat in March this year. His elevation to the minister will be seen as the Centre’s quid-pro-quo gesture to his opposition to Telangana agitation.