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Published on: June 14, 2021, 5:21 p.m.
Reshuffle buzz at the Centre
  • Modi: a Cabinet expansion on the cards?

By Rakesh Joshi. Executive Editor, Business India

The national capital is once abuzz with reports of a cabinet expansion after Prime Minister Narendra Modi began to review the performance of select ministries, especially during the second wave of Covid-19, with Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP chief J.P. Nadda. The expansion will coincide with a reshuffle of Uttar Pradesh cabinet, following Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s meeting with Shah and Modi during his two-day visit to Delhi. With BJP now gearing up for the next round of assembly polls in seven states early next year, including in UP, it is expected to take various measures to bolster its social and political equations in the states.

The deliberations among the senior BJP leaders at Modi’s 7 Lok Kalyan Marg residence came a day after Shah also met party allies from UP, including Apna Dal’s Anupriya Patel, who was a minister in the first Modi government but was not inducted in the next. Apart from UP, Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Goa, Manipur, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh are facing assembly polls next year, the BJP wants to bring in representatives of social groups, which will add more votes to its kitty. So, some faces from western UP, where the BJP is facing a serious threat to its hold because of the farmers’ agitation, are likely to be given prominent positions in Lucknow and in Delhi. 

Indeed, the BJP appears to be taking the saying that ‘the road to Delhi passes through Lucknow’ seriously. A series of meetings at the organisational levels and the high-profile visits of central BJP and RSS leaders to Lucknow have culminated in Yogi Adityanath’s meeting with Modi and Shah. UP accounts for 80 Lok Sabha seats. There are reports that Yogi Adityanath’s alleged mishandling of 

the Covid-19 situation in UP has led to erosion of the BJP’s support base in the state.

Widening the political profile

During the first two years of Modi 2.0, a few key ministers and top leaders of the BJP have died, while allies like the Shiv Sena and Akali Dal have separated from the NDA, creating a host of vacancies. Some senior ministers were allotted extra portfolios and this has led to a few of them being overburdened. Many states are yet to be given proper representation according to their strength in the Lok Sabha. 

It is likely that Modi and Shah may want to widen the political profile of the NDA, after the Shiv Sena and the Akali Dal parted company with it. There is talk of roping in the BJP’s alliance partner from Bihar, Janata Dal (United), into the government. But there are reports that Nitish Kumar will not settle for a solitary addition. He wants two of his MPs to be inducted as Union ministers. The Modi government has, in the past, also wanted to include Andhra Pradesh’s ruling YSR Congress in the cabinet but the latter had indicated its disinclination. 

The Andhra party has bailed the BJP out many times in the Rajya Sabha with its numbers. Chief minister Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy’s meeting with Shah and other Union ministers in the recent past indicates that attempts may be on to reconstitute the NDA cabinet and make it more appealing from the viewpoint of pan-India representation. 

During the Modi government’s first term, the Prime Minister closely assessed everyone’s performance and the first expansion was done after a year of taking office. A total of three cabinet reshuffles took place. But this has not been the case in the second term. And one of the reasons has been the corona-virus pandemic. 

The pandemic overwhelmed the government. So, the expectation is that Modi may soon lessen the burden on ministers holding three to four portfolios, while some people could be dropped from the government based on their less-than-satisfactory performances.

Modi has been meeting Union ministers in different batches of late, and the BJP chief has also been present there. Some of the ministers he met over the weekend were Dharmendra Pradhan, Prakash Javadekar and Hardeep Puri.

Ever since Madhya Pradesh Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia joined the BJP last year, helping reinstate the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government in the state, there has been speculation about his joining the Union cabinet. The former Assam chief minister, Sarbananda Sonowal, who made way for Himanta Biswa Sarma, in a peaceful transition of power, is also waiting for a Central posting.

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