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Reshuffle in the air as Congress ministers offer to quit

Delhi,Politics, Wed, 25 Apr 2012 IANS

New Delhi, April 24 (IANS) Amid speculation of a rejig in both the party and the United Progressive Alliance government in order to gear up for the 2014 political battle, five Congress ministers have reportedly offered to quit to strengthen the party.


Both Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid and Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office V. Narayanasamy have reportedly offered to quit saying "the party came first".


Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi said he has been asked by the party high command to look into Andhra Pradesh affairs since general secretary in charge of the state Ghulam Nabi Azad, who is the health minister, is busy. Azad too has reportedly offered to step down, sources said.


The Congress Tuesday suspended eight Lok Sabha members from Andhra Pradesh after they disrupted the House demanding a separate Telangana state.


Another minister who has reportedly offered to move to the party is Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh, who is considered a strategist.


Sources said a reshuffle in the cabinet and the Congress could take place after the ongoing budget session ends May 22.


The reshuffle has been necessitated after the party fared poorly in the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls, increasing its tally by just six seats - from 22 in 2007 to 28 - despite a high-pitched poll campaign by Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi.


In Punjab, the Congress could not defeat the incumbent Akali Dal government due to infighting in its state unit, while in the Uttarakhand polls, where it ran neck-and-neck with Bharatiya Janata Party, the party had to work hard to handle dissenting minister of state for agriculture Harish Rawat and install Vijay Bahuguna as chief minister.


Khurshid, who has earlier headed the Uttar Pradesh Congress, said if asked to quit he won't mind serving the party again.


Khurshid's remark on quota for Muslims which had invited criticism from the Election Commission and on the Batla House shootout during the assembly elections had become controversial. His utterances were cited by state leaders as one of the reasons for the party's poor show in the politically crucial state.


Stating that leaders regularly communicate with the party high command, Khurshid said "the party came first but the government is the ultimate platform to test the ability of a leader."


Narayanasamy told reporters "party is the priority", and added, "Whatever post she (Congress president Sonia Gandhi) gives me in government or party is final."


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