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Ajay Maken quits ministry, UPA reshuffle awaited

New Delhi, June 16 (): In a sudden twist, Union minister Ajay Maken who held the housing and urban poverty alleviation portfolio resigned on Saturday ahead of the cabinet shuffle expected by Tuesday.

49-year-old Ajay Maken, who was expected to succeed Sheila Dikshit as chief minister of Delhi was asked to hand over his resignation late in the evening, which the minister apparently would have not expected. Maken, who was elevated to the cabinet rank in October last year handed over his paper to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday.

After Saturday’s sudden development, the Congress however has indicated giving serious thought to reshuffling the party in Delhi, which is likely to take place next week or as early as Monday. It could also be the last reshuffle in the union council of ministers before the Lok Sabha elections which is to take place in 2014.

The Congress is also  expected to bring in some new faces and effect changes in existing portfolios after Congress president Sonia Gandhi held separate meetings with the PM earlier this week and President Pranab Mukherjee.

As far as the present situation is concerned the union council of ministers has ten vacancies after the DMK’s withdrawal of support and the resignations of former railway and law ministers Pawan Kumar Bansal and Ashwani Kumar in the wake of controversies. While CP Joshi will likely be losing road transport and highways portfolio and might keep hold of railways, Kapil Sibal may possibly be expected to hold dual charge of law and telecom.

Srikant Jena, minister of state for statistics and programme implementation may likely be elevated to cabinet status, as he had been demanding elevation on the grounds of having served as cabinet minister in the United Front government in 1996.

Even though the move seemed to be a budding future for Maken in Delhi, sources hinted ruling out a change of leadership in the capital just before the elections. The sudden development could also be to appoint Mr Maken as the Delhi PCC chief, or he may even be made a party general secretary.