NEW DELHI, July 9 � The guessing game among State Congress MPs continues, as Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh is all set to reshuffle his ministry early next week.
Congress Lok Sabha MP Paban Singh Ghatowar and PCC president and Rajya Sabha MP Bhubaneswar Kalita have emerged as favourities to make it to the Central Cabinet from the State, as uncertainty hangs over the fate of Union Minister for Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) Bijoy Krishna Handique and Minister of State for Water Resources Vincent H Pala.
At least nine ministers, including four Cabinet ministers and five Ministers of State (MoS), are likely to be dropped, as the Prime Minster aims to go in for a major rejig of his ministry, in an obvious image-makeover bid. Hit by charges of corruption, several key ministers belonging to its allies were forced to step down. While former Telecom Minister. A Raja is in prison, Textiles Minister Dayanidhi Maran has quit the Cabinet. Corporate Affairs Minister Murli Deora has also offered to resign ahead of the reshuffle.
Decks were cleared for the reshuffle when Congress president Sonia Gandhi met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh even as senior party leader Pranab Mukherjee met DMK chief Karunanidhi in Chennai and discussed the current political situation.
The DMK reportedly is not seeking any replacements for Maran and former Telecom Minister A Raja. Reports had it that the DMK may not be keen on such replacements immediately.
Meanwhile, Ghatowar and Kalita are waiting in the wings to get into the Central Cabinet. Ghatowar is backed by Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) while Kalita is playing his cards close to his chest.
Recently, a delegation of INTUC members comprising ministers and MLAs had landed in the Capital to lobby for a ministerial berth for Ghatowar, who is also the Congress party�s Chief Whip in the Lok Sabha.
Kalita, meanwhile, is waiting to be rewarded for his party�s overwhelming victory in the recent Assembly polls in Assam. As PCC president, Kalita along with Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi piloted a successful election campaign.
Both Ghatowar and Kalita, when contacted, declined to comment, pointing out that it was the Prime Minister�s prerogative to choose his team.
AICC sources said that there was a possibility of two MPs from the State being inducted in case Handique is dropped.
Sources further said that Pala may make way for a MP from Manipur, Dr Thokchom Meinya. Manipur goes to poll next year and none of its MPs have so far found a place in the UPA government, sources pointed out.
Meanwhile, there are a number of vacancies in the Union Cabinet like Railways, following resignation of Mamata Banerjee who became West Bengal Chief Minister, and Textiles in the wake of Dayanidhi Maran�s resignation on the 2G issue.
Elevation of some of the ministers, particularly from poll-bound States like Uttar Pradesh, which is goes to polls next year, is expected.