New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to expand his Union Council of Ministers with an eye on the politically crucial assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh scheduled next year on Tuesday. The much-awaited expansion of Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Cabinet will see major changes in portfolios of some ministers.
The Prime Minister has in the recent past held several rounds of consultations with senior party colleagues including BJP chief Amit Shah, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on a wide range of issues before expanding his Council of Ministers.
Attempt To Woo NDA Allies
In an attempt to keep the NDA alliance partners intact, the Prime Minister is likely to induct several new faces from smaller and local parties. If government sources are to be believed then there is a likelihood of smaller parties getting a berth during the cabinet expansion.
Leaders from the Apna Dal, Shiv Sena and Republican Party of India (RPI), which had announced its support to the BJP for the Mumbai civic polls due next year, will be included in the Cabinet this time.
Upcoming Assembly Polls
The Prime Minister is likely to keep regional balances especially in view of the upcoming elections in key states like Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Punjab.
Sources state that Anil Desai (Shiv Sena), Ramdas Athawale (RPI) and Vinay Sahastrabuddhe (BJP) from Maharashtra); Anupriya Patel (Apna Dal), Raghav Lakhanpal (BJP MP Saharanpur), Yogi Adityanath (BJP MP Gorakhpur) from Uttar Pradesh; Arjun Ram Meghwal- BJP MP Bikaner (Rajasthan); Parsottambhai Rupala (BJP) from Gujarat and Ajay Tamta (BJP MP) from (Uttarakhand) will most likely find their place in the Cabinet this time.
SS Ahluwalia, Mahendra Nath Pandey and PP Chaudhary are also likely to be inducted in the Cabinet.
The top four portfolios - Home, Finance, External Affairs and Defence - are unlikely to be touched. Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal, Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and Minister of State for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi are set to be promoted courtesy their splendid performances.
Sarbananda Sonowal, who held the Sports portfolio, took over as the Chief Minister of Assam post the BJP's win in the north-eastern state. A new Sports Minister is on the cards.
Old Vs Young
Another key element of today's rejig would be the Prime Minister's decision on the below 75 year age criteria for a membership of the council.
As a result of which, the fate of Minority Affairs Minister Najma Heptulla and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Kalraj Mishra will be decided today.
This, however, was not the criteria for Cabinet berth during the former UPA regime as the Congress leadership preferred veterans rather than young blood.
The erstwhile UPA regime had several faces from the southern states of the country unlike the NDA which has adequate representation from north India.
The last cabinet expansion had taken place in November 2014.
At that time, the Council of Ministers was expanded by adding four Cabinet Ministers, three Ministers of State (Independent Charge) and 14 Ministers of State, increasing the total size of the ministry from 45 to 66 ministers.
The Cabinet was, however, leaner than the one headed by former prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh during the UPA regime. The strength of Dr Singh-led UPA stood at 78 after its final reshuffle in October 2012.
According to the Constitution, the total number of ministers in the Council of Ministers must not exceed 15 percent of the total number of members of the Lok Sabha i.e. 82.
With ANI inputs