02 Jul 2021: Modi's Cabinet expansion expected soon. Who are the frontrunners?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to announce the expansion of his Cabinet soon for the first time in his second term. The decisions for the key posts will be made with eyes on the state Assembly elections slated for 2022 and the 2024 general elections. Notably, there are several vacant posts in Modi's Cabinet and many ministers have additional charges of different ministries.
Scindia: Jyotiraditya Scindia, whose Congress exit benefited BJP in MP
Rumor has it that Rajya Sabha MP Jyotiraditya Scindia may make the cut. Scindia, a former leader of the rival Indian National Congress, had defected to Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party last year. This event has been attributed to the downfall of the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh, and the current BJP government was installed. Scindia is reportedly keen on taking more responsibility.
LJP: LJP drama to impact Cabinet pick
Separately, the Cabinet representative from the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) remains debatable after party leader Pashupati Kumar Paras staged a coup against his own nephew, Chirag Paswan. Paswan would have taken the slot left vacant by the demise of his father, Ram Vilas Paswan, last year. However, Paras and other LJP leaders ousted him from positions of power in the party.
Bihar: Lallan Singh, Ramnath Thakur, Santosh Kushwaha among JD(U) frontrunners
The question of BJP's ally Janata Dal United also remains unclear. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had chosen to keep the JD(U) out of the Cabinet. However, reports now say that Kumar is hoping for at least two ministers in the Union Cabinet. JDU leaders Lallan Singh, Ramnath Thakur, and Santosh Kushwaha are among the frontrunners for the positions, reports said.
Fact: Ex-Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal likely to join Cabinet
Another rumored name is that of former Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal. Sonowal, a former Union Minister, had handed over the reins to Himanta Biswa Sarma after the 2021 Assam polls. He is likely to return to the Cabinet.
Other candidates: UP may be well-represented in Cabinet
Bihar's Sushil Modi, Maharashtra's Narayan Rane, and Rajasthan's Bhupendra Yadav may also join Modi's Cabinet. Uttar Pradesh—the key to the general elections as India's most populous state—is likely to be well-represented in the Cabinet. Varun Gandhi, Ram Shankar Katheria, Anil Jain, Rita Bahuguna Joshi, and Zafar Islam may join the Cabinet. UP is also due to hold state Assembly elections next year.
Other candidates: Who are the other possible picks?
Uttarakhand's Ajay Bhatt or Anil Baluni and Karnataka's Pratap Simha may also be given positions in the Cabinet. From West Bengal—where the BJP recently lost—Jagannath Sarkar, Shantanu Thakur, and Nisith Pramanik are among those in the running. Parvesh Varma or Meenakshi Lekhi (Delhi), Brijendra Singh (Haryana), Rahul Kaswan (Rajasthan), Ashwani Vaishnav (Odisha), and Pritam Munde (Maharashtra) may also make the cut.
Cabinet: Union Cabinet has 28 vacancies
The Union Cabinet can have up to 81 members, but currently, there are only 53 (there are 28 vacancies). Nine ministers who have additional charge of multiple ministries may be rid of their extra duties. These include Prakash Javadekar, Piyush Goyal, Dharmendra Pradhan, Nitin Gadkari, Harsh Vardhan, Narendra Singh Tomar, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Smriti Irani, and Hardeep Singh Puri.
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