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May 20, 2002 | 1130 IST
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Cabinet reshuffle may be deferred

Ajay Singh

The Cabinet reshuffle is likely to be put on hold till there is some stability on the Indo-Pak border.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was given this suggestion during a series of meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security last week in the wake of suicide attacks at the army camp in Kaluchak in Jammu.

After evaluating the security scenario, the CCS was believed to have reached the view that it would not be advisable to have a reshuffle while India was putting out that war clouds were gathering on the Indo-Pakistan border.

The reshuffle cum expansion was expected to take place before the end of this month to tone up the government and shift some young leaders from the government to the BJP organisation to refurbish the party's image.

In effect, the much-promised organisational restructuring of the BJP, a declaration of the party leadership at the BJP's national executive in Goa, will be deferred in these circumstances.

At Goa, the party's leadership carried out introspection after debacles in assembly polls in UP, Punjab and Uttaranchal and suggested changes be effected in the organisational structure.

Just after the BJP's Goa conclave, Vajpayee is believed to have made up his mind to make major portfolio changes. Though a final decision is yet to be taken, there has been speculation about several ministers, most significantly, about finance minister Yashwant Sinha.

But the Kaluchak incident has shifted this to the background. Official sources say the PM's Manali holiday is being re-scheduled though PMO is being advised to cancel it altogether.

This is being done to lend credence to the government's tough talk on cross-border terrorism including exercising the military option if diplomatic attempts were to fail.

The major task before the government is to evolve a political consensus on the government's move on the issue. As a part of this exercise, Vajpayee met Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Sunday and discussed the issue.

Vajpayee will be pre-occupied with the security related issues the whole of next week.

On May 23, Vajpayee is expected to reach Srinagar to attend the meeting of unified command which will brief him about the internal security scenario in Jammu and Kashmir. The government may take a final view on the reshuffle schedule after this meeting.

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