This May Be Modi’s Last Cabinet Rejig Before 2019 Polls
JD(U) will now be a part of the cabinet reshuffle after it accepted the invitation to ally with BJP.
(This piece has been republished from The Quint’s archives in light of Prime Minister Modi including nine new ministers in his cabinet on 2 September, 2017. It was originally published on 26 July, 2017)
The Narendra Modi government is likely to go for a third – and possibly final – Cabinet reshuffle in the second week of September.
A total of 45 ministers took oath when the Modi government came to power in the summer of 2014.
The Cabinet has already witnessed two rejigs – one in November 2014 and the second in July 2016. The third one, scheduled for next month, is said to be the last major reshuffle before the 2019 general elections. After this, the sole focus will be on electoral preparations in 2018, which means the ministers in-charge of the new departments will have less than a year’s time to prove their prowess.
The Burden of Additional Ministries
In recent months, Modi’s Cabinet members have been burdened with additional portfolios.
Soon after the Goa Assembly elections in March and the return of former Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar to his state as Chief Minister, Arun Jaitley had to fill his shoes.
Then came another round of vacancies in both the Information and Broadcast Ministry as well as in the Urban Development ministry, owing to Venkaiah Naidu becoming the vice president. Those posts were filled by Smriti Irani and Narendra Tomar, respectively.
Irani, who was already managing the Textile ministry, has now taken over I&B, while Tomar is now in-charge of five ministries.
On 18 May, the reins of the Environment ministry were handed over to Harsh Vardhan, who is already heading ministry of Science and Technology, after Anil Dave passed away.
As the timing of India’s biggest tax reform GST and India’s border dispute with China in Doklam collided in recent months, the Opposition questioned if Jaitley could manage two ministries simultaneously. Jaitley himself had indicated that his appointment as the Defence minister was a temporary arrangement.
JD(U) Becomes a BJP Ally, Similar Fate Expected for PDP
Nitish Kumar's JDU(U) accepted the invitation on 19 August to become a BJP ally, thus making itself part of the cabinet reshuffle.
People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is also expected to become part of NDA. While the Shiv Sena is also expected to get a ministry, the AIADMK’s fate remains uncertain at this point as Modi looks to strengthen his government politically and in terms of administration.
Changes That May Follow
It has been speculated that Kalraj Mishra, who is currently the Union Minister for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, will be relieved of his post. The 75-year-old minister’s record has not been up to the mark after the Modi government tracked the ministry’s performance in the last three years. Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh from Bihar is also expected to be dropped.
Moreover, Himachal Pradesh will hold elections later this year and Health Minister JP Nadda maybe projected as the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate. In which case, he may also vacate his seat in the Cabinet. Additionally, Anurag Thakur from the state might be brought into the central government.
BJP office bearers could be stepped in to fill the vacancies. The party’s national general secretary Ram Madhav, who helped secure electoral victories for the BJP in the northeast, and Bhupender Yadav, a Rajya Sabha member, have also been named as important candidates who can be inducted into the Cabinet.
Dharmendra Pradhan, Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas, and Piyush Goyal, MoS with Independent Charge for Power, Coal, New and Renewable Energy and Mines – both have been important names in Modi government. They are expected to become part of the cabinet – similar to Prakash Javadekar. MoS Hansraj Aahir is also expected to be promoted.
Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka will also face electoral battles in the next two years.
With the BJP vying to expand its foothold in the non-BJP states, especially in the southern region, a few faces from the south may find representation in Modi’s Delhi court. This has become more important with Venkaiah Naidu’s exit from the Cabinet.
(This story was originally published in Quint Hindi)
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