A major cabinet reshuffle in the Union cabinet is slated to take place on Tuesday, roughly midway into the Narendra Modi government's tenure. While there have been cabinet rejigs on four occasions since May 2014, the game of ministerial musical chairs expected to take place on Tuesday is arguably the first of its kind and that it comes ahead of major electoral tests for the ruling party at the Centre, is significant.
Even as Modi attempted to distance himself from hardliners within his political fold in his interview with Times Now, reports indicate that there could be a fresh infusion of 'fringe' elements into the cabinet. For starters, Yogi Adityanath, who has been booked for hate speech in Uttar Pradesh, may find his way into the cabinet, as per a report in The New Indian Express. Sanjeev Balyan, accused in the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots, may also be promoted as a minister with independent charge, a report in The Indian Express quoted sources as saying.
In a major development, Apna Dal, which has major support among OBCs in Uttar Pradesh, has decided to merge with the BJP, Zee News has reported. As the party's leader Anupriya Patel meets BJP chief Amit Shah, speculations are rife that she may be inducted in the government.
Apart from Anupriya Patel, other prominent leaders who met Amit Shah were Vijay Goel, MJ Akbar, Arjun Ram Meghwal and Ramdas Athawale. Both Punjab — which goes to the polls next year, and Assam — which recently saw its first BJP-led government coming to power — are likely to get representation in the new scheme of things, according to the report in The Indian Express.
Apart from elections, the performance of the incumbent ministers will also have a bearing on the cabinet rejig. According to an article in Firstpost, Modi is largely satisfied with the functioning of four senior ministers — Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and Manohar Parrikar — and is not likely to change their responsibilities in any way.
On the other hand, reports last week suggested that law minister Sadananda Gowda may be on his way out. If this happens, this would be the second time that Gowda is removed from a ministerial position, as he was in charge of the rail ministry before taking over as law minister in November 2014.
On 30 June, Modi reviewed the performance of all Union ministries to ascertain whether budgetary allocations have been spent wisely.
During the UPA-II's term in power at the Centre, one major induction into the cabinet had taken in the wake of a political shock — that of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) withdrawing support to the government. Subsequently, all TMC ministers, including the then railway minister Mukul Roy resigned, the Congress' CP Joshi had taken charge of the post. Another expansion of the cabinet had taken place after the DMK also parted ways with the government. This could well bearing on the BJP's mind as it seeks to placate its disgruntled ally, the Shiv Sena. A report in Hindustan Times suggests that Anil Desai from the saffron party in Maharashtra is being considered for a cabinet berth.
While accusations of involvement in riots and hate speech do not appear to have any adverse effects on induction into the cabinet, other serious criminal charges appear to be a matter of concern for the Modi government. Nihal Chand, in charge of the ministry of chemicals and fertilisers, may face the axe as he was named in a rape case, according a report by NDTV.
As the BJP prepares to face perhaps its most significant electoral test, the cabinet reshuffle expected on Tuesday will be the most politically significant one yet.