Modi cabinet reshuffle tomorrow, 19 new faces likely


July 4, 2016

NEW DELHI – Prime Minister Narendra Modi will induct around 19 new faces into his council of ministers on Tuesday with many of them from states where elections are due next year.

July 4, 2016

NEW DELHI – Prime Minister Narendra Modi will induct around 19 new faces into his council of ministers on Tuesday with many of them from states where elections are due next year.

Four of the new faces are likely to be from the Dalit community, part of the BJP’s broader plan to appeal to the scheduled castes in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Punjab. All three states vote next year and have a substantial population of scheduled castes that has traditionally stayed away from the BJP.

The top four portfolios—home, finance, external affairs and defence—are unlikely to be touched, government sources said. This will be the second reshuffle for the government in as many years.

Power minister Piyush Goyal and petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan are likely to be elevated to cabinet status, the sources said.

With at least three new faces in the council of ministers, Uttar Pradesh is likely to figure prominently in the reshuffle as the BJP goes all out for a victory in elections in India’s most politically crucial state next year. The BJP is looking to dislodge regional parties such as the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party that have alternated power in the state for more than a decade.

Among those likely to be inducted from the state are Apna Dal leader Anupriya Patel, the BJP’s parliamentarians from Shahjahanpur Krishna Raj and Mahendra Pandey from Chandauli. The BJP is in talks with the Apna Dal for a merger, sources said.

Controversial Jat leader from western Uttar Pradesh, Sanjeev Balyan, and Bhumihar leader from eastern Uttar Pradesh, Manoj Sinha, are also likely to be promoted. Currently, both hold minister of state rank.

Minority affairs minister Najma Heptulla, 76, and small and medium enterprises minister Kalraj Mishra, 75, might be dropped from the cabinet. Though age has never been an official criterion, Modi has repeatedly stressed on young blood in his government. Heptulla’s exit will likely pave the way for the elevation of junior minister for minority affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.

Dahod MP Jaswantsinh Bhabhor and Rajjya Sabha members Masukh L Mandaviya and Parshottam Rupala from Gujarat are likely to come into the council of ministers. At least two sitting ministers from Gujarat are likely to be dropped.

A day before the reshuffle, top leaders and ministerial hopefuls made a beeline for BJP chief Amit Shah’s residence in Delhi. Some of the meetings may also have been in connection with an impending reorganization of the party office-bearers, sources said.

The BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP Vijay Goel will also find a place in the council of ministers.

Darjeeling MP SS Ahluwalia, Republican Party of India leader Ramdas Athawale, Almora MP Ajay Tamta, Bikaner MP Arjun Ram Meghwal and Pali MP PP Choudhary are the other names doing the rounds.

Tamta, Raj, Meghwal and Athawale are Dalit leaders. The Almora MP will also become the first minister from Uttarakhand in Modi’s team.

From Rajasthan, minister of state for water resources Sanwar Lal Jat — a Lok Sabha MP from Ajmer — is believed to be on his way out on health grounds. Sources said junior minister for chemical and fertilisers Nihal Chand, a Lok Sabha MP from Ganganagar, may also be dropped.

Two of the likely faces – Meghwal and Choudhary – are from Rajasthan and may come in place of Jat and Chand.

Rajya Sabha members MJ Akbar and Anil Madhav Dave besides Mandla MP Faggan Singh Kulaste are probable from Madhya Pradesh. Anil Desai of the Shiv Sena is also likely to be inducted. Dhule MP Subhash Bhamre is also being considered from Maharashtra.

Courtesy: HT