The Narendra Modi government is likely go in for the first cabinet reshuffle of its second term on Wednesday. The cabinet expansion is expected to be shaped by the changed political equations in states that recently went to the polls and those that will vote in assembly elections next year.
The PM reportedly chalked out the reshuffle with senior leaders Amit Shah and BL Santhosh at his residence on Sunday. Sources said Santhosh’s office has started calling up the new ministerial picks. However, a meeting scheduled for Tuesday between Modi, his top ministers and BJP president JP Nadda has been cancelled.
Sources said the reshuffle could see portfolios of two top cabinet ministers rejigged, while Textiles and Women & Child Development Smriti Irani could get additional responsibility.
BJP leaders Sarbananda Sonowal, the former Assam chief minister who made way for Himanta Biswa Sarma in the state, and Jyotiraditya Scindia are seen as strong ministerial probables amid indications that some allies of the saffron party may also get berths. While Scindia cancelled a foreign visit, Sonowal is believed to be travelling to Delhi.
From the JD(U), Lallan Singh and RCP Singh are likely to be inducted.
The states which will go to the assembly polls early next year, including the all-important Uttar Pradesh, may figure high. West Bengal may also see its representation in the Union Council of Ministers go up.
It is believed that Apna Dal can also get representation. Presently, Republican Party leader Ramdas Athawale, a junior minister, is the only ally in the government after parties like the Shiv Sena and the Shiromani Akali Dal severed ties with the BJP.
Lok Janshakti Party founder Ram Vilas Paswan, a Cabinet minister, had died last year and all eyes are on whether his brother Pashupati Kumar Paras will be part of the expansion. Paras is engaged in a bitter battle with Paswan’s son Chirag Paswan for the control of the party and has been recognised as the LJP leader in Lok Sabha after five of its six MPs lent their support to him.
Suspense continues on the fate of former Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis who is said to be reluctant to move to the Centre amid reports of cracks in the ruling Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government.
The current strength of the Council of Ministers is 53, besides Modi, and its maximum number can be 81.
With PTI inputs