Cabinet reshuffle likely on Wednesday amid buzz of big reset

·4-min read

New Delhi, Jul 6 (PTI) Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to effect the first reshuffle in his Council of Ministers on Wednesday since he assumed the charge for a second term, in what is tipped to be a 'major shake-up' of the government as he looks to make it more representative with an eye on political and governance challenges.

BJP leaders Sarbananda Sonowal, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Narayan Rane, all of whom are being seen as probables for induction as ministers in the Modi government, arrived in the national capital on Tuesday.

In another pointer to the imminent Cabinet reshuffle, Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thaawarchand Gehlot was appointed as Karnataka governor, causing yet another ministerial vacancy.

JD(U) leader R C P Singh and LJP's Pashupati Kumar Paras, both of whom are expected to represent the BJP's allies in the government, also reached here from Bihar.

All of them remained tight-lipped to queries about their possibility of joining the government.

Rane told reporters that he had not received any call about his joining the government.

Leaders of the LJP faction headed by Paras said he had received a call from Home Minister Amit Shah on Monday but claimed that it was related to the birth anniversary of party founder Ram Vilas Paswan.

Multiple sources said the reshuffle is likely to take place on Wednesday evening.

There has been no official word on the Cabinet reshuffle.

The exercise comes against the backdrop of a massive review, which has stretched for weeks, undertaken by the BJP top brass of the works of Union ministers and the organisation against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A BJP leader said the reshuffle is expected to be a 'big shake-up' with Modi addressing political challenges, including the assembly polls in five states early next year, and governance issues.

The prime minister is also scheduled to chair a Cabinet meeting, hours before the expected reshuffle.

His review of the works of his ministers, early next year assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa, Manipur and Punjab and the COVID-19 pandemic that has been a factor in the internal evaluation of the party's governance and organisational works are likely to weigh heavy in the expected reshuffle.

Representation of BJP MPs from West Bengal and the Northeast may go up.

Another BJP ally All India Jharkhand Students Union may also get a berth, sources said as the BJP looks to boost its partners' representation in the ministry after its old allies like Shiv Sena and Shiromani Akali Dal severed their ties with it.

Ramadas Athavale, a junior minister, is the only BJP ally in the government as of now.

The current strength of the Council of Ministers is 53, including Modi, and its maximum number can be 81.

Against the massive review exercise within the central government and the party machinery, the prime minister may go for new faces with an eye on grooming younger leaders while also factoring in caste and regional balances.

There is also a buzz about Modi inducting some professionals and those with domain expertise besides bringing in more women.

The reshuffles undertaken by Modi so far, all in his first term, have also seen some ministers being dropped or removed from key portfolios on account of their performance.

The prime minister has also sprung surprises in the past by inducting those with apolitical background, like S Jaishankar and Hardeep Singh Puri, as ministers.

A party source said it is likely to be a 'big shakeup' and members of the party organisation may be brought in the government.

Names of Bhupender Yadav, Anil Baluni, Sudhanshu Trivedi are doing the rounds while BJP MPs Sushil Modi, Ashwini Vaishnav and G V L Narasimha Rao are also being mentioned as probables.

BJP general secretary (organisation) B L Santhosh met party president J P Nadda in the evening. Former Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje also met Santhosh.

With Gehlot set to quit as an MP after becoming governor, his departure will also leave the key post of the leader of the House in Rajya Sabha vacant.

It will leave one more position vacant in the BJP's Parliamentary Board, the party's apex body, where he is the only Dalit leader.

Incidentally, top RSS brass, including its chief Mohan Bhagwat and joint general secretaries Krishna Gopal and Manmohan Vaidya, was also in the city for the last few days.

The BJP has often factored in the feedback from the RSS in its key decisions.

Referring to the fresh appointment of governors, BJP sources also pointed out that the Modi government has brought in a 'record number' of SCs, STs and OBC in this key constitutional post.

Three Jat leaders are currently serving as governors while a substantial number of gubernatorial assignments have been given to those hailing from SC communities, they said, adding that these include Thaawarchand Gehlot, Rajendra Arlekar and Satyadev Narayan Arya. Baby Rani Maurya, another Dalit leader, is currently serving as the Uttarakhand Governor.

The BJP sources noted that the governors from Tribal communities include Mangubhai Patel and Anusuiya Uikey, while OBC governors include Phagu Chauhan, Ramesh Bais, Bandaru Dattatraya, Ganga Prasad Chaurasiya and Tamilisai Soundararajan. PTI KR/JTR KJ KJ

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