Indian PM set to unveil cabinet reshuffle

NEW DELHI - Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was expected to reshuffle his cabinet later Tuesday to tackle accusations that a series of graft scandals has left the government rudderless.

Halfway through its second term, the administration led by Singh's Congress Party has suffered from months of bad headlines over corruption claims, stubbornly high inflation and slowing economic growth.

Home Minister P. Chidambaram and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee are predicted to remain in their posts, with changes made to the more junior cabinet ranks.

The reshuffle, forecast to be announced at 1130 GMT, follows the resignation of Textile Minister Dayanidhi Maran last week over the 2006 allocation of second-generation (2G) mobile phone licences when he was telecoms minister.

The 2G issue has been the biggest corruption scandal to hit Singh, with allegations that the treasury missed out on $40 billion of revenue due to ministers selling the lucrative licences at bargain prices to selected firms.

Maran's successor at the telecoms ministry, A. Raja, also resigned last year over the 2G scandal. He is now in custody awaiting trial along with several top government officials and business executives.

Both Maran and Raja belong to the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), a regional party from the southern state of Tamil Nadu that is part of the Congress-led ruling alliance.

"The prime minister will be keen to convey that his team is effective and at the same time he is taking action at every level," independent political analyst Mahesh Rangarajan told AFP.

"This is a critical reshuffle as the government will be introducing a new corruption bill in the upcoming session of the parliament."

Last month, Singh rejected criticism at a press conference that he had become a "lame duck" leader who had turned a blind eye to the spate of corruption allegations.

He promised a cabinet reshuffle that would infuse fresh energy into his administration.