04 July, New Delhi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to reshuffle his council of ministers on Tuesday by axing six ministers and inducting 18 new faces in the maiden such major exercise since he took power in May 2014, party sources said.
Some of the to be ministers who flew into the capital on Monday from Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka and Uttarakhand, told IANS that they were summoned by BJP President Amit Shah. All of them met Shah over tea in the afternoon.
Frank Noronha, the government’s principal spokeperson, tweeted earlier in the day that a cabinet expansion would take place on Tuesday at 11 a.m. but did not go into the specifics.
Bharatiya Janata Party sources said two dozen names were doing the rounds for induction, promotion or ouster.
The sources said over 15 new faces — one source put the figure at 18 — could find a place in the ministerial council and four ministers of state with independent charge were likely to be promoted to the cabinet.
A highly placed source told IANS that none of the new ministers would get the cabinet status.
Ministers with independent charge likely to join the cabinet are Piyush Goyal (Power, Coal, and New and Renewable Energy), Dharmendra Pradhan (Petroleum and Natural Gas), Nirmala Sitharaman (Industries and Commerce) and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi (Minority Affairs).
The likely new faces are Lok Sabha members Arjun Ram Meghwal, P.P. Chaudhary (both Rajasthan), Anupriya Patel, Mahendra Nath Pandey and Krishna Raj (all Uttar Pradesh), Ajay Tamta (Uttarakhand), S.S. Ahluwalia (West Bengal), Mansukh Bhai Mandavia and Jaswant Sinh Bhabhor (both Gujarat), Subhash Ramrao Bhamre (Maharashtra) and Ramesh Chandappa Jigajinagi (Karnataka).
The likely new ministers from the Rajya Sabha are Anil Desai and Ramdas Athawale (Maharashtra), Purushottam Rupala (Gujarat), Faggan Singh Kulaste, M.J. Akbar and Anil Madhav Dave (all Madhya Pradesh) and Vijay Goel, the former Delhi BJP president who represents Rajasthan.
All of them met Shah soon after the government announced that a cabinet reshuffle would take place on Tuesday. “At least six ministers may be dropped,” a source told IANS.
Those who may be axed are Minority Affairs Minister Najma Heptulla (cabinet), and Ministers of State Sanwar Lal Jat (Water Resources), Nihalchand (Panchayati Raj), Ram Shankar Katheria (HRD), Mansukh Bhai Vasava (Tribal Affairs) and Mohanbhai Kundaria (Agriculture).
Barring Athavale of the Republican Party of India and Anil Desai of Shiv Sena, all others are from the BJP.
Presently, there are 64 ministers in the union cabinet including the Prime Minister. There can be a maximum of 81 ministers.
This time, instead of the to be ministers getting calls from the Prime Minister’s Office, it was BJP President Shah who informed them about their likely induction.
Shah and BJP General Secretary Ram Lal later met RSS leaders, obviously to brief them about the government exercise. Later, Shah and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley met Prime Minister to give the final shape to the list of to be ministers.
Meanwhile, Modi, during an interaction with a group of journalists, said the reshuffle will “reflect the budget focus and priorities”.
There has been speculation of a cabinet reshuffle since the Prime Minister met his ministers on June 30 and reviewed important projects and works of various ministries. This was preceded by his meeting with Shah and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
The reshuffle will be followed by an organisational revamp of the BJP, the sources added.
Tuesday’s exercise will come 27 months after Modi led the BJP to a sweeping win the Lok Sabha polls and months ahead of the assembly election in Uttar Pradesh which the ruling party is determined to win.