New Delhi: A cloud of uncertainty hangs over the participation of the AIADMK and the JD(U) in the Union Cabinet as Prime Minister Narendra Modi undertakes a major revamp tomorrow to fill key vacancies and bring in new faces ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah are likely to hold a final round of discussion to finalise the rejig, the third since NDA came to power in 2014. Shah returned to the capital today after attending a crucial coordination meeting with various RSS outfits in Vrindavan yesterday.
Internal troubles in the AIADMK, which has been hit by a rebellion led by T T V Dhinakaran, can prove to be a stumbling block in its joining the government.
AIADMK leader Thambidurai, who met Shah yesterday, might be a likely representative from the party along with P Venugopal and V Maitreyan if it decides to join the government. However, the southern party has not said anything so far. The Nitish Kumar led-JD(U), which joined the NDA recently, had not been informed about their participation in the government, party sources said.
“Our MPs are in Delhi. There was never any issue in the party over participating in the government but there has been no communication to us even though the reshuffle is tomorrow,” a senior JD(U) leader said.
BJP sources, however, played down the confusion over whether or not the two parties will join the government, saying things will fall into place before the event. More than half-a-dozen ministers are expected to make way for several new faces in the reshuffle, being seen as a balancing act between Modi’s avowed thrust on merit and demands of realpolitik.
Union ministers — Kalraj Mishra, Bandaru Dattatreya, Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Sanjiv Kumar Balyan, Faggan Singh Kulaste and Mahendra Nath Pandey — had resigned yesterday ahead of the reshuffle. Uma Bharti, too, had offered to resign but her fate remains in a balance amid speculation that there may be a few more exits.
“The media sought my reaction on reports in circulation since yesterday. I have said that I have not heard the question, will not hear nor will I answer it,” she tweeted. After assuming office in May 2014, Modi expanded his council of ministers twice–first on November 9, 2014 and then on July 5, 2016.
Mishra, a veteran party leader from Uttar Pradesh, said he offered to resign from the cabinet two months back when he met the prime minister.
“I met the prime minister and said I have completed 76 years and I’m now running on 77, you can take any decision about me. He told me that you should meet the national president,” he said.
Mishra said the prime minister lauded his performance, adding that the question about non-performance does not arise in his case. Delhi MP Parvesh Verma, son of late BJP leader Sahib Singh, called on Shah today, amid indications that he may be one of the fresh faces in the council of ministers.
“A process has been set in motion for the swearing-in ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan at around 10 am on Sunday,” a top government official had said yesterday.
Shah had met Modi on Friday and the two leaders are understood to have finalised the changes in the council of ministers. Arun Jaitley, who currently holds the charge of two heavyweight portfolios–finance and defence–may retain only one, sources said.
Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari, seen as one of the more capable ministers, can be given more responsibility. Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu, who had taken moral responsibility for a string of train accidents and indicated his willingness to resign, may be moved to another ministry, the sources said. Other incumbents, including Steel Minister Birender Singh, may be moved to other ministries.
BJP general secretary Bhupender Yadav, party’s vice president Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, Prahlad Patel, Suresh Angadi, Satyapal Singh, Himanta Biswa Sarma, Anurag Thakur, Shobha Karandlaje, Maheish Girri and Prahlad Joshi are being talked about within the party as among the probable ministers.
Power Minister Piyush Goyal, Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha are seen among the “good performers” in the government, a party leader said, adding that some of them can be elevated.
The resignation of Manohar Parrikar and M Venkaiah Naidu from the Union Cabinet and the demise of Anil Dave had created three vacancies in the cabinet. Their portfolios were distributed to Jaitley, Narendra Singh Tomar, Smriti Irani and Harsh Vardhan.
With the JD(U) also likely to join the government, its leaders R C P Singh, who is its parliamentary party leader in the Rajya Sabha, and Santosh Kumar are the likely picks from the new NDA constituent.
There are also talks of a greater representation from existing allies like the TDP and the Shiv Sena. The current strength of the council of ministers, including the prime minister, is 73 and the maximum number of ministers cannot go beyond 81.
According to a constitutional amendment, the limit cannot exceed beyond 15 percent of the total strength of the Lok Sabha which is 545.