Unresolved differences between the BJP and Shiv Sena threatened to spill over into the Narendra Modi government’s first reshuffle with the ally creating some last-minute drama and signalling it may sit out Sunday’s exercise.
Union minister Anant Geete, Sena’s lone representative in the Centre, left for Mumbai Saturday without meeting the Prime Minister, apparently after failing to get an appointment. The party’s Rajya Sabha MP Anil Desai, its pick for a post in the union council of ministers, had also not left Mumbai. Under these circumstances, sources said, Modi would likely go with Desai’s party colleague Suresh Prabhu, who is the BJP’s choice.
The PM is inducting around 20 new faces to his council of minister at 1.30pm Sunday, and two to three of them could be non-BJP. A TDP representative is certain. The exercise will be preceded by tea, during which Modi will give his new team members a pep talk. The PM has over the last two days been calling up those who would be joining his government.
The reshuffle will give a big push to Bihar and Uttar Pradesh — with an eye on elections — and reward Maharashtra and Haryana for delivering decisive victories for the BJP in recent assembly elections. The big appointment would be that of Manohar Parrikar as defence minister. The 58-year-old resigned as Goa chief minister on Saturday, making his cabinet move almost a certainty.
Bihar — which has three cabinet ministers and a minister of state (MoS) — will get three more berths. BJP general secretary Rajiv Pratap Rudy, the party’s Maharashtra in-charge, is tipped to become a minister. Nawada MP Giriraj Singh — a vocal Modi supporter in the Nitish Kumar-led JD(U)-BJP government — and Patliputra MP Ram Kripal Yadav — a former Lalu loyalist who defeated the RJD chief’s daughter Misa Bharti in the Lok Sabha polls — may be made ministers of state.
Bihar goes to poll in September-October next year and the BJP faces a JD(U)-RJD-Congress super alliance there.
Rajya Sabha MP Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi is a certain name from UP. Fatehpur MP Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti and Gautam Buddha Nagar MP Dr Mahesh Sharma are also set to be made MoS.
Besides Modi, the Varanasi MP, the council of ministers has four cabinet ministers and MoS each from the country’s most populous state. The BJP-Apna Dal alliance had won 73 of its 80 seats in the general elections and is aiming to wrest power from the Samajwadi Party in the 2017 assembly polls.
Maharashtra, where the BJP has just formed a government on its own, will get at least three more ministers. Hansraj Gangaram Ahir is tipped to get coal while Prabhu may get an infrastructure-related ministry.
Haryana, with two MoS-rank ministers in Team Modi, may get one more representation. Chaudhary Birender Singh, who switched over from the Congress ahead of last month’s assembly polls, may be inducted. That would make him the BJP’s sole Jat face in the state.
Asansol MP Babul Supriyo is almost certain to become West Bengal’s first representative in the Modi government. Himachal Pradesh could similarly get its first central minister with both Rajya Sabha MP JP Nadda and Shimla MP Virendra Kashyap strong contenders.
Rajasthan, where the BJP’s strong show meant the Congress couldn’t muster up a single Lok Sabha seat, has one MoS-rank minister and Ajmer MP Sanwar Lal Jat is likely to the next addition. The BJP’s lone MP from Telangana, Bandaru Dattatrey, will also be inducted.
However, there was no clarity on Uttarakhand, which also has no representation in the Centre. Almora MP Ajay Tamta, a scheduled caste leader, and Nainital MP Bhagat Singh Koshiyari, a former chief minister, were among the probables.
Sunday’s exercise is also aimed at easing the burden on seven cabinet ministers holding multiple portfolios. Road transport and shipping minister Nitin Gadkari holds charge of rural development too while law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad takes care of IT and communications. Then there is Prakash Javadekar (environment, I&B), Piyush Goyal (power, coal and mines), Narendra Singh Tomar (steel, labour), Venkaiah Naidu (parliamentary affairs, urban development), and Nirmala Sitharaman (finance MoS, commerce independent charge). Sitharaman and Javadekar are tipped to be promoted to cabinet rank.
However, finance minister Arun Jaitley may get an additional portfolio after being divested of defence. The portfolios of some ministers are also likely to be changed since they haven’t lived up to the PM’s expectations.
Discussion to finalise ministries for the new entrants were on till late Saturday.