Manmohan Singh, the prime minister of India will announce a new cabinet members list on Wednesday. This reshuffle of his cabinet is a mid-term effort to refresh a coalition government snared by corruption scandals and year-high food inflation as it faces key state elections.

PM Singh may make changes to smaller ministries, bringing in younger politicians to change the image of the government. Or he could make major changes with some controversial reformists, such as Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh.

There is a tide of anger all over the country over corruption and hike of prices of basic foods like vegetables. This may strain the coalition’s ties with its increasingly worried party allies in the run-up to important state elections this year and a general election due by 2014.

The legacy of the 78-year-old Singh, founder of India’s economic reforms and widely seen as an honest technocrat, is also under threat from his inability to deal with graft scams and the highest food inflation of any major Asian economy.

Reelected in 2009, his government managed to shield India from the worst of a global downturn, and its economy is heading for growth of nearly 9% in the fiscal year ending this March. But a group of 14 public figures from industrialists to former central bank governors warned this week in an open letter that corruption and bad governance threatened India’s growth story, a sign scandals were reaching a tipping point for civil society.

“We are alarmed at the widespread governance deficit almost in every sphere of national activity covering government, business and institutions,” said the letter, quoted in the Hindustan Times.

Coming to the new cabinet selection the fate of outspoken Jairam Ramesh may show how much Singh will back a minister seen as a reformist who has been criticized in business and political circles for blocking major industrial projects over green concerns.

Ministerial vacancies have been created by the resignations of Sashi Tharoor as junior foreign minister and Andimuthu Raja as telecommunications minister. Raja, from the Congress’s regional DMK ally, quit over his link to a USD 39 billion telecoms scam.

Several elderly and powerful ministers have been criticized for scuttling new thinking in government, frustrating efforts toward faster reform, such as opening up the retail sector.

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