Prime Minister Narendra Modi is all set to rejig his Cabinet any day now, to infuse new blood, ahead of 2019 General Elections.
On the heels of the resignation of senior cabinet ministers from the Modi government on Thursday night, the Prime Minister is all set to implement a Cabinet reshuffle on Sunday, September 3.
Minister for Water Resources, River Development, and Ganga Rejuvenation, Uma Bharti; Minister for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Rajiv Pratap Rudy; Small & Medium Enterprises Minister, Kalraj Mishra; Minister of State for Human Resource Development, Mahendra Nath Pandey and Minister of State for Water Resources-Sanjiv Baliyan, have quit the government, finally signalling a Cabinet reshuffle.
Some of them met BJP National President Amit Shah and party General Secretary (Organisation) Ram Lal last week, and were asked to step down from the Cabinet by submitting their resignation to the party leadership first.
Third Cabinet Reshuffle
The Sunday reshuffle will be the third after Modi came to power on May 26, 2014.
Modi undertook the first Cabinet reshuffle on November 9, 2014 inducting 21 new ministers, including heavyweights, such as Manohar Parrikar, Suresh Prabhu, JP Nadda, Chaudhary Birender Singh, Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Mahesh Sharma and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.
On July 5, 2016 Prakash Javadekar was elevated to the Cabinet rank, and 19 new faces were inducted as ministers of state. In a major change, Javadekar replaced Smriti Irani as the human resource development (HRD) minister, while Irani herself was handed out the Textile Ministry.
Why reshuffle the cabinet?
Five factors—vacancy in key ministries, mid-term appraisal of the performance of the ministers, forthcoming Assembly elections, gubernatorial assignments and realignment of NDA — have necessitated a cabinet reshuffle.
After the recent return of the Janata Dal (United) into the ruling NDA fold, two names making the rounds are Bihar CM Nitish Kumar’s confidante Ramchandra Singh and former state CM Karpoori Thakur’s son Ramnath Thakur —either for the Cabinet or a Minister of State. Nitish Kumar is keen that JD(U) be given the Railway Ministry. Nitish had held the portfolio in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government. JD(U) MP RCP Sinha may get the Railway Ministry if Suresh Prabhu is shifted out of it.
Spicing up with southern flavours
Both PM and Shah are keen to include AIADMK MPs in the Union Cabinet after it joins the NDA. The AIADMK has 37 Lok Sabha and 13 Rajya Sabha MPs. The question is when will AIADMK join the NDA fold? Currently, the deputy speaker of the Lok Sabha, M Thambidurai is a sure shot entry into the Union Cabinet. Remember, he was the former law minister in the Vajpayee government when AIADMK was part of NDA. Another contender could be Rajya Sabha MP, V Maithreyan.
From Andhra Pradesh, film actor NT Rama Rao Jr, who happens to be the grandson of cult figure NT Rama Rao (NTR), could also be considered. NTR’s daughter, D Purundeshwari could be drafted into the Union Cabinet. Purandeswari, who was a minister in Dr Manmohan Singh’s cabinet had joined BJP just before the general elections in 2014 and currently heads the BJP’s Mahila Morcha.
Eyeing Karnataka, Shah recently visited the state where the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government is already facing anti-incumbency. The BJP wants to make a comeback in the Assembly elections that are due next year and improve its tally of 17 Lok Sabha seats from the state in 2019. With this in mind, Shobha Karandlaje, a sitting MP from Udupi-Chikmagalur constituency in Karnataka and a staunch loyalist of state BJP President BS Yeddyurappa, and Belgaum MP Suresh Angadi who is considered a heavyweight in the dominant Lingayat community of Karnataka, could be inducted into the Cabinet.
This is one of the key metrics on which the Prime Minister is undertaking the Cabinet reshuffle. Modi, BJP president Amit Shah and RSS leadership have already assessed the Union Ministers. Radha Mohan Singh, Vishnu Deo Sai, Sudarshan Bhagat, Krishna Raj and Vijay Sampla are some of the Union Ministers who could be dropped.
Similarly, based on performance, five ministers of state with independent charge are likely to be elevated to cabinet rank. These include, Power Minister Piyush Goyal, Petroleum & Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, Commerce & Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Communications Minister Manoj Sinha and Minister- Development of North Eastern Region- Jitendra Singh. On account of several train accidents during the last few months, the image of the Railway Ministry has taken a beating. While Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has offered to resign, PM Modi has asked him to wait.
Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka will go to polls in 2018. The Cabinet will also see increased representation in the Union Ministry.
Health Minister JP Nadda is likely to be projected as the chief ministerial candidate of BJP’s Himachal Pradesh unit. In his place, former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal may be brought to the centre. Himachal Pradesh goes to polls later this year.
Overburdened Cabinet Ministers
There are many vacancies in the Modi Government. For instance, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is handling several important portfolios. Besides finance, Jaitley has been handling the additional charge of corporate affairs. He was given the Defence Ministry after Manohar Parikkar’s resignation, who then became Goa’s chief minister.
Ananth Kumar holds the portfolios of Chemicals & Fertilisers and Parliamentary Affairs, while Dr Harshvardhan has been handling the additional charge of Forest & Environment after the death of Anil Dave, besides holding the Ministry of Science, Technology & Earth Sciences.
Similarly, Narendra Singh Tomar has been handling the additional charge of urban affairs (following Venkaiah Naidu’s resignation to become the vice-president, besides holding Rural Development, Panchayati Raj, Drinking Water and Sanitation.
Ravi Shankar Prasad also holds the portfolios of Law & Justice as well as Electronics & Information Technology. Smriti Irani has been handling the additional charge of Information & Broadcasting after M N Venkaiah Naidu became vice president, besides holding the Textile Ministry. According to sources, Irani could be retained as I&B Minister.
Governors holding additional charge
There are seven states without a governor. A few ministers could be considered for this. One of them is Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Minister Kalraj Mishra, who is likely to be sent to Maharashtra. Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat have OP Kohli as governor; Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra has Vidyasagar Rao, while ES Lakshmi Narsimhan is Governor for both Telengana and Andhra Pradesh. Keshari Nath Tripathi is West Bengal Governor but is also acting as Bihar’s governor after Ram Nath Kovind became the President of India last month.
The Cabinet reshuffle will be closely watched to gauge the message PM Modi wishes to send ahead of the 2019 General Elections.