Narendra Modi will likely reshuffle and expand his council of ministers on Sunday, with Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar tipped to get the key defence portfolio and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi set to return as a cabinet minister.
The long-awaited revamp of the team that has ruled India since late May will lighten the burden on some ministers who hold more than one portfolio and give the Prime Minister a chance to promote high achievers while getting rid of a few who have failed to keep pace, government and BJP sources said.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley, who holds additional charge of the defence portfolio, had said early in his tenure that this was only a temporary arrangement. The 58-year-old Parrikar flew to Delhi early on Wednesday after cancelling a meeting of his state cabinet, and met BJP chief Amit Shah and, later in the day, Modi.
“The Prime Minister did not talk about my joining the cabinet; we discussed Goa issues,” he said after meeting Modi. The likely move of the well-regarded chief minister to Delhi will leave the BJP with a big hole to plug in Goa, and party leaders were in discussions about his replacement.
Naqvi, minister of state in the Vajpayee government, is likely to become minister in charge of statistics and planning, the sources said. His entry will provide the cabinet another prominent Muslim face after minority affairs minister Najma Heptulla.
Jayant Sinha, who holds a Harvard MBA and is the son of former finance minister Yashwant Sinha, is likely to be inducted as minister of state (MoS), either in the defence or finance ministry. Nirmala Sitharaman may be promoted from MoS to cabinet minister, likely in charge of the commerce and industry ministry, and give up her current additional role as MoS in the finance ministry.
Haryana leader Birender Singh, who had crossed over from the Congress to the BJP ahead of the Haryana assembly election, is understood to be in contention for a berth in the council of ministers and is likely to get independent charge of a ministry.
BJP youth wing chief Anu-rag Thakur, a Lok Sabha MP from Himachal Pradesh, and Maharashtra MP Hansraj Gangaram Ahir, who was instrumental in uncovering the coal block scam, are other probable candidates.
Bihar MPs Ashwini Kumar Choubey, a Brahmin, and Giriraj Singh, a Bhumihar, are also said to be serious contenders for a place in the council of ministers. MPs from Uttarakhand and West Bengal may miss the bus again, said sources.
Modi is understood to be considering lightening the burden of some ministers holding more than one portfolio. Ravi Shankar Prasad (law, communication & IT), Prakash Javadekar (I&B and environment), Nitin Gadkari (rural development, road transport & highways, panchayati raj and drinking water) and Piyush Goyal (power, coal, new and renewable energy) are among the ministers who hold multiple portfolios.
Speculation is also rife about changes in Rail Bhawan and Krishi Bhawan. Given the PM’s motto of “minimum government, maximum governance”, the sources ruled out any large-scale expansion. Modi’s present team includes 22 cabinet ministers and an equal number of MoS.
(with agency inputs)