PM Modi may induct dozen new faces in Cabinet reshuffle on Sunday
The ministers who have quit are Kalraj Mishra, Uma Bharti, Bandaru Dattatreya, Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Sanjeev Balyan, Faggan Singh Kulaste, Mahendra Nath Pandey, and Giriraj Singh.Updated: Sep 02, 2017 10:48 IST
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to induct about a dozen new faces in his council of ministers and re-allocate some important portfolios on Sunday, probably the last major revamp of his team ahead of the 2019 general elections.
The new ministers will be sworn in by President Ram Nath Kovind at a ceremony in the Rashtrapati Bhawan, which will start at 10 am. The Prime Minister will leave for China to attend the BRICS summit Sunday afternoon.
Labour minister Bandaru Dattatreya resigned on Friday, adding to the list of at least seven ministers who have put in their papers in the past forty-eight hours to make way for new faces.
In rejigging his team, Modi is expected to strike a balance between his agenda of governance — by plugging gaps in terms of competence and dynamism in his council of ministers — and political expediency — by giving representation to about half-a-dozen states going to polls by the end of 2018 and reflecting the ruling party’s new social engineering formula.
BJP sources said he is likely to put a premium on performance in the re-allocation of portfolios, as was the hint from the list of ministers who were asked to put in their papers.
Of the 73 members of the Union council of ministers, at least eight are likely to be edged out. There can be a maximum of 81 members, which gives the Prime Minister the option of inducting at least 15 new faces in the government. He is, however, unlikely to fill up all vacancies.
Modi and BJP president Amit Shah met on Thursday evening and the two were understood to have discussed the names that could be considered for induction. The JD(U), which joined the NDA recently, is likely to get two ministerial berths.
Among the names doing the rounds in BJP circles as likely contenders for ministerial posts were Vinay Sahasrabuddhe from Maharashtra, former Mumbai police commissioner Satypal Singh, Harish Dwivedi from Uttar Pradesh, Prahlad Joshi, Suresh Angadi and Shobha Karandlaje from Karnataka, Prabhat Jha, Rakesh Singh and Prahlad Patel from Madhya Pradesh, Ashwini Choubey from Bihar and Mahesh Giri from Delhi.
BJP sources said that some ministers with independent charges, including Piyush Goyal, Manoj Sinha, and Dharmendra Pradhan, could be in contention for promotion as Cabinet ministers.
Two JD(U) leaders, RCP Singh and Santosh Kumar, are tipped to be the party’s nominees for ministerial positions at the Centre.
AIADMK leader Thambidurai met Amit Shah on Friday evening, but sources in the Tamil party said there was no decision on joining the NDA yet.
The ministers who have already resigned include two cabinet ministers—Kalraj Mishra and Uma Bharti —and five ministers of state-- Rajiv Pratap Rudy, who held independent charge of skill development ministry, Sanjeev Balyan, Faggan Singh Kulaste, Mahendra Nath Pandey, and Giriraj Singh.
Water resources and Ganga rejuvenation minister Uma Bharti tweeted on Friday that she would not react to reports about her resignation and only BJP chief Amit Shah or someone authorised by him could comment on it.
Incidentally, a day after resigning, Bharti drove to Vrindavan on Thursday where top BJP and RSS leaders are gathered for a coordination meeting.
Some important portfolios, held as additional charges by ministers, are likely to be re-allocated. Finance minister Arun Jaitley, for instance, holds the additional charge of defence ministry. Asked about this dual charge at a function on Thursday evening, Jaitley said, “At least, I hope, not very long.”
Suresh Prabhu offered to quit as railway minister after a train accident last week. The PM has asked him to “wait”. There is an old proposal to integrate infrastructure ministries including road transport & highways, shipping and the railways.
The PM has not given any indication whether the proposal is back on his table, but BJP sources did not rule out its possibility.
The other ministries given to four ministers as additional charge are information and broadcasting, environment and forests, and urban development and housing.
There was speculation in the ruling party circles about the likelihood of Smriti Irani retaining I&B ministry but HT could not independently confirm it.
The Congress said it was the Prime Minister’s prerogative to shuffle and reshuffle his council of ministers. “I don’t see much talent that he has. He may appoint anyone and remove anyone and change any portfolios (but) that will make zero difference because this is the Prime Minister who believes in complete concentration of power,” senior Congress leader Anand Sharma said.
“We have a cabinet form of government, but is it functioning like a cabinet form? Key ministries for more than three years are without a cabinet minister which has never happened. Why? So, that all policy papers which originate from the cabinet minister’s signature, are prepared in the PMO. This is what he was doing as the chief minister of Gujarat. That is exactly what he is doing now to India.”