With 2019 in mind, Modi to reshuffle Cabinet on Sunday morning: Himanta Biswa Sarma, Satyapal Singh likely to feature

The Narendra Modi government is all set for an expansion-cum-reshuffle on 3 September early morning, BJP sources have told Firstpost. A Cabinet reshuffle has been on the cards since Manohar Parrikar resigned as defence minister to become the Chief Minister of Goa. Finance minister Arun Jaitley has been holding additional charge of the defence ministry since then. While the view in the political leadership is that a Cabinet reshuffle is certainly required, the big question is about the timing.

That date seems to have been set more by necessity than choice as Friday is the only time in next few days when President Ram Nath Kovind, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah will be in the national Capital. While the President has not been officially intimated about the move yet, the reshuffle is expected to take place before Modi leaves for China, according to the IBN7 research team.

The resignations: Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Mahendra Nath Pandey out

The major move which has kicked-off the process is the resignation of skills development minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy, and the appointment of Mahendra Nath Pandey, former minister of state (MoS) in the HRD ministry, as the state president of the BJP's Uttar Pradesh unit. Pandey is expected to resign from the Cabinet due to the party's one man-one post rule. Party sources also revealed that several other BJP leaders have already submitted their resignation. Some of the names that have come to Firstpost's notice include Giriraj Singh (MoS for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises) and Sanjeev Baliyan, MoS for agriculture and food processing.

According to the IBN7 research team, more than half a dozen ministers are likely to be dropped from the Cabinet in this reshuffle.

File image of PM Modi along with senior cabinet ministers. AFP

File image of PM Modi along with senior cabinet ministers. AFP

Water resources minister Uma Bharati has offered to quit on health grounds, reports The Times of India. Kalraj Mishra, the minister for medium and small scale industries, is above 75 years of age (the informal age-limit for NDA ministers) and could be moved out to a Raj Bhavan.

NDTV has reported that agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh too has resigned after facing flak over the death of protesting farmers in Madhya Pradesh's Mandsaur. Commerce minister Nirmala Sitaraman could also quit to go back to being the BJP's main spokesperson as she is seen as a strong voice to effectively project the party's stand ahead of key Assembly elections.

India Today also adds the names of Vishnu Deo Sai (MoS for Steel and Mines), Krishna Raj (MoS for Women and Child Development) and Vijay Sampla (MoS for Social Justice and Empowerment) to the list of those moving out.

Amid those joining in, rumours have it that Hemanta Biswa Sarma, who quit Congress to join BJP in 2016, and former Mumbai police commissioner Satyapal Singh are likely to be inducted in the cabinet.

Cabinet reshuffle necessary as many ministers currently hold multiple portfolios

Reshuffle talks gained further ground after Jaitley on Thursday hinted that he would not continue to hold the defence portfolio for long. "At least not for very long," Jaitley said in response to questions on how long he would continue as Defence Minister. He has also been tasked as in-charge for Gujarat elections.

Besides Jaitley, three other union ministers are holding additional charges of different ministries. Textiles minister Smriti Irani is holding additional charge of the information and broadcasting ministry portfolio, while rural development minister Narendra Tomar has additional charge of the urban development ministry after M Venkaiah Naidu resigned to contest the vice-presidential election. Union science and technology minister Harsh Vardhan is holding additional charge of the environment portfolio following the death of Anil Madhav Dave in May.

Right now, the council of ministers has 72 ministers - 24 of cabinet rank, 12 MoS (independent charge) and 36 MoS, according to India Today. The total number of ministers in the council cannot exceed 81. This means Modi can add nine more ministers for now. However, while he will try to fill the vacant seats, he might still keep some unoccupied for now.

"A major reshuffle is likely in BJP in the coming days. The party leadership wants to bring back some of the former general secretaries who had played decisive roles in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. These senior leaders would be appointed in-charge of a specific state," Livemint quoted a BJP leader as saying.

The additions: JD(U) leaders, Ram Madhav could join Cabinet

After the Janata Dal (United) faction led by Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar joined the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance, some of its leaders too are expected to join the Union Cabinet. According to a report in The Times of India, JD(U) leaders Ram Chandra Prasad Singh and Purnea MP Santosh Kushwaha — could be sworn into the Cabinet.

AIADMK leader and Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker M Thambi Durai met Shah on Thursday, leading to speculation that the party might become part of the Union Council of Minister. However, sources said the AIADMK's entry might be delayed till the problems in the party were resolved.

Railway minister Suresh Prabhu has been under pressure after a spate of train derailments and could be shifted out. He is likely to take over as environment minister, a role he had performed earlier in under the Vajpayee government. The Times of India says that parliamentary affairs minister Ananth Kumar could take over the urban development ministry, relieving Narendra Singh Tomar from his additional charge.

India Today also reports that JP Nadda could become the chief ministerial candidate of BJP's Himachal Pradesh unit and former Himachal chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal could replace him at the centre.

The NDTV report also says that Bhupendra Yadav, who is in-charge of BJP's Gujarat unit, could be inducted in the Cabinet alsong with Prahlad Patel, a BJP leader from Madhya Pradesh. Party heavyweight Ram Madhav, who has been instrumental in the BJP's gains in the Northeast, could also get a Cabinet berth, according to DNA.

News18  has reported that ministers seen as doing good work — like power minister Piyush Goyal and petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan — could get elevated. India Today says Manoj Sinha (minister of communication (independent charge) and MoS for railways) and Jitendra Singh (MoS (independent charge) for development of north eastern region and PMO) too are being considered for elevation. It also speculated that either TMC leader Dinesh Trivedi could take charge of the railway ministry or that a mega transport and mobility ministry could be created under Nitin Gadkari, who has a good track record as highways and shipping minister.

With 18 months to next elections, this reshuffle is important for Modi

The last cabinet reshuffle took place in July 2016 in which Modi inducted 19 new faces and elevated MoS for Environment Prakash Javadekar to cabinet rank. Five junior ministers were also dropped.

Firstpost had earlier written that Modi has another 18 months to deliver before the 2019 General Elections to Lok Sabha begins. He thus needs to weed out the dead wood from the government and infuse new blood in the cabinet. The PMO has undertaken a performance review of ministers. This cabinet reshuffle could be an occasion for Modi to give a message to the nation that he cares for performance and merit.

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Sep 01, 2017 18:21 PM

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