A total of 19 new ministers, some from Dalit community, are set to be inducted in the expansion of the Union Council of Ministers on Tuesday, an exercise being done ahead of Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh and a few other states next year. According to sources on Monday night, the expansion-cum-reshuffle being carried out by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also expected to see elevation of at least one minister to Cabinet rank. Some of the 19 new ministers are expected to get Independent charge, the sources said.
Sources have said 19 new faces would be brought into the Cabinet, in an expansion that would be meant to "bring in doers and performers". Sources in the government told The Times of India that the 19 new faces have been picked after an exhaustive vetting and selection process, with the likely names being identified on the basis of their professional expertise and experience.
Ahead of the expansion, Modi was quoted as saying that Tueday's expansion of his ministry will reflect "budget focus and priorities". BJP sources said some ministers may also be dropped. In the expansion, the second since Modi took over in May 2014, new faces like Anupriya Patel, an OBC Lok Sabha member of ally Apna Dal in Uttar Pradesh, besides BJP MPs SS Ahluwalia (West Bengal) and Purshottam Rupala, a Rajya Sabha member from Gujarat, may be inducted.
All the new entrants are expected to be from BJP, except for Anupriya Singh Patel. Krishna Raj, a Dalit woman MP from Uttar Pradesh, Mahendra Nath Pandey, a Brahmin face in the state, Ajay Tamta, a Dalit MP from Uttarakhand, which also goes to polls next year, also figure in the list of probables. Arjun Ram Meghwal, a Dalit BJP MP from Rajasthan, Ramdas Athawale, another Dalit leader and RPI MP from Maharashtra, can get ministerial berths besides Subhash Ramrao Bhamre, who is also from Maharashtra, and Mansukhbhai Mandaviya, a Rajya Sabha member from Gujarat.
The names of Rajya Sabha MPs Vijay Goel, MJ Akbar, Anil Madhav Dave and PP Chaudhary, Lok Sabha member from Rajasthan, have also been doing the rounds as possible inductions. Faggan Singh Kulhaste, who was embroiled in the cash-for-votes scam during the UPA-1 rule, CR Chaudhary(Gujarat), Jasvantsinh Bhabhor(Gujarat) Rajen Gohain(Assam) and Ramesh Chandappa Jigajinagi(Karnataka) ae also likely to be inducted.
Many of these leaders on Monday met with BJP chief Amit Shah, who is also likely to announce the party's organisational team soon. Frank Noronha, principal spokesperson of the government, tweeted on Monday that the cabinet expansion will take place on Tuesday at 11 am.
There is also a vacancy in the Council of Ministers after Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal became the Chief Minister of Assam. The first expansion had occurred in November 2014.
There are currently 64 Union ministers, including the Prime Minister, and there can be a maximum of 82 of them under a constitutional bar. The sources said the expansion comes after an exhaustive vetting and selection process to find the best talent. People were assessed on the value they would bring to the Union Council of Ministers, they said.
The sources said this marks a firm departure from the usual routine of frequent changes based on caste, religion and other time serving political considerations and is a firm endorsement of developmental politics that the prime minister champions.
The selection was based on the new ministers' professional expertise, experiences in both Centre and states besides keeping the youth factor in mind.
With inputs from PTI