Prime Minister Narendra Modi will induct at least 12 new faces into the Union council of ministers on Tuesday with many of them from states where elections are due next year.
Four of the new faces are likely to be from the Dalit community, a part of the BJP’s broader plan to appeal to the scheduled castes in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Punjab. All three states will vote next year and have a substantial population of scheduled castes, who have traditionally stayed away from the BJP.
The top four portfolios—home, finance, external affairs and defence—are unlikely to be touched, government sources said. This will be the second reshuffle for the government in as many years.
Power minister Piyush Goyal and petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan are likely to be elevated to cabinet status, the sources said. Minority affairs minister Najma Heptulla, 76, and small and medium enterprises minister Kalraj Mishra, 75, might be dropped from the cabinet.
Though age has never been an official criterion, Modi has repeatedly stressed on young blood in his government.
Heptulla’s exit will likely pave the way for the elevation of junior minister for minority affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.
With at least three new faces in the council of ministers, Uttar Pradesh is likely to figure prominently in the reshuffle as the BJP goes all out for a victory in elections in India’s most politically crucial state next year.
The BJP is looking to dislodge regional outfits such as the Samajwadi and Bahujan Samaj Party that have been in power in the state for more than a decade.
Among the probables are Apna Dal leader Anupriya Patel and the BJP’s parliamentarians from Shahjahanpur Krishna Raj and Mahendra Pandey from Chandauli.
Controversial Jat leader from western Uttar Pradesh, Sanjeev Balyan, and Bhumihar leader from eastern Uttar Pradesh, Manoj Sinha, are also likely to be promoted. Currently, both hold minister of state rank.
A day before the reshuffle, top leaders and ministerial hopefuls made a beeline for BJP chief Amit Shah’s residence in Delhi. Some of the meetings may also have been in connection with an impending reorganisation of the party office-bearers, sources said.
Darjeeling MP SS Ahluwalia, Republican Party of India leader Ramdas Athawale, Almora MP Ajay Tamta, Bikaner MP Arjun Ram Meghwal and Pali MP PP Choudhary are the other names doing the rounds.
Tamta, Raj, Meghwal and Athawale are Dalit leaders. The Almora MP will also become the first minister from Uttarakhand in Modi’s team.
From Rajasthan, minister of state for water resources Sanwar Lal Jat -- a Lok Sabha MP from Ajmer -- is believed to be on his way out on health grounds. Sources said junior minister for chemical and fertilisers Nihal Chand, a Lok Sabha MP from Ganganagar, may also be dropped.
Two of the likely faces - Meghwal and Choudhary - are from Rajasthan and may come in place of Jat and Chand.
Dibrugarh MP Rameshwar Teli and Mangaldoi MP Raman Deka are among the probables from Assam. One of them will fill up the vacancy created by Sarbananda Sonowal, who quit as sports minister to become Assam chief minister.
Rajya Sabha member MJ Akbar and Anil Desai of the Shiv Sena are also likely to be inducted.