Prime Minister Narendra Modi is all set to expand his cabinet on Tuesday in what will be the first such major exercise since he took over the reins in May 2014.
The cabinet reshuffle will take place a day before Modi leaves on a four-nation Africa tour beginning July 7. The Prime Minister, who reviewed the performance of various ministries indicating a reshuffle earlier on June 30, last expanded his cabinet in November 2014.
Modi expanded his council of ministers by adding four cabinet ministers, three ministers of state (independent charge) and 14 ministers of state, increasing the total size of the ministry from 45 to 66 ministers.
According to the Constitution, the total number of ministers in the Council of Ministers must not exceed 15% of the total number of members of the Lok Sabha ie 82. At present, there are 64 Union ministers, including the Prime Minister.
Here are five things you need to know about the rejig:
1) New faces from the party
Modi may give a few members of the Bharatiya Janata Party a place in his council of minister.
The names of Lok Sabha MPs Arjun Ram Meghwal and PP Chaudhary, who represent Rajasthan, Ajay Tamta from Uttarakhand, Yogi Adityanath, Mahendra Nath Pandey and Krishna Raj from Uttar Pradesh, SS Ahluwalia from West Bengal are doing the rounds.
Dibrugarh MP Rameshwar Teli and Mangaldoi MP Raman Deka also are among the probables from Assam.
MJ Akbar, who got re-elected in the recent Rajya Sabha elections, Anil Madhav Dave are likely faces from Madhya Pradesh. Vijay Goel, who was elected to Rajya Sabha from Rajasthan, and Rajya Sabha MP from Maharashtra Vinay Sahasrabuddhe are said to be among the BJP leaders to get a place in the cabinet.
From Gujarat, Rajya Sabha member Purushottam Rupala and Bhavnagar MP Mansukh L Mandaviya are likely to be inducted.
2) Wooing SCs in poll-bound states
Modi will keep the BJP’s Dalit wooing exercise alive by inducting Scheduled Caste leaders from poll-bound states of UP and Uttarakhand where SCs are in large numbers.
Apna Dal leader Anupriya Patel, a Kurmi leader from eastern Uttar Pradesh, is one of the Dalit leaders who may get into Team Modi. Names of Dalit leaders like Shahjahanpur MP Krishna Raj, Bikaner MP Meghwal, Republican Party of India’s Ram Das Athawale (Maharashtra) and Ajay Tamta (Uttarakhand) are doing the rounds as the probables.
3) Regional balance
Modi is also likely to induct several faces from smaller and local parties in order to woo the alliance partners and give adequate representation to states.
Leaders from the Apna Dal, Shiv Sena and Republican Party of India, which announced its support for the BJP for the Mumbai civic polls due next year, will be included in the cabinet this time.
Ally Shiv Sena is also getting one more ministerial berth, which will go to Rajya Sabha member Anil Desai. He is a confidant of Uddhav Thackeray and missed the bus in the last reshuffle.
Besides, the UPA regime had several faces from the southern states of the country, unlike the NDA which has adequate representation from north India.
4) Status quo, promotion and ouster
Sources said the top four portfolios—home, finance, external affairs and defence—are unlikely to be touched and some ministers like power minister Piyush Goel may be in for a promotion.
The government is likely to name Goyal to lead the action plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions in keeping with its global commitment. Towards this end, the climate change division under the ministry of environment, forest and climate change will be merged with the ministry of new and renewable energy, which Goyal heads.
Other ministers with an independent charge like Dharmendra Pradhan (petroleum and natural gas) and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi (minority affairs) are also likely to be promoted.
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 in Team Modi.
Modi is also likely to replace ministerial colleagues from Rajasthan – Sanwar Lal Jat and Nihalchand – with Bikaner MP Meghwal and Pali MP Choudhary. While Jat is likely to be relieved on health ground, Nihalchand was in controversy over rape charges.
Jat, who is a Lok Sabha MP from Ajmer, is the minister of state for water resources and Nihalchand is the junior minister for chemical and fertilisers. He represents Ganganagar in the lower house of Parliament.
Dibrugarh MP Teli or Mangaldoi MP Deka may fill up the vacancy created by Sarbananda Sonowal, who quit as sports minister to become Assam chief minister.
5) Age factor
Another key element of the rejig would be the Prime Minister’s decision on the below 75 year age criteria for a membership of the council.
Minority affairs minister Najma Heptulla, 76, and small and medium enterprises minister Kalraj Mishra, 75, might be dropped from the cabinet. Heptulla’s exit will pave the way for the elevation of junior minister for minority affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.
Though the age rule has never been officially declared, Modi has repeatedly stressed on giving importance to younger faces.
This was, however, not the criteria for cabinet berth during the former UPA regime as the Congress leadership preferred veterans rather than young blood.
(With agency inputs)