India: PM Modi finalises Cabinet expansion

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has held marathon meetings with Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP general secretary (organisation) B L Santhosh in what is being seen as the final touches being given to the details of a likely expansion of the Union Cabinet.
  • Sources said Shah and Santhosh confabulated with Modi at his residence for several hours on 4 Jul 21 amid a “strong possibility” that the Cabinet reshuffle may happen very soon.
  • Some sources said the swearing-in may happen as early as 7 Jul 21. However, there was no official word on it.
  • If the prime minister goes ahead with the exercise, he will be expanding his Council of Ministers for the first time since assuming the charge for his second innings.
  • BJP leaders Sarbananda Sonowal, the former Assam chief minister who made way for Himanta Biswa Sarma in the state, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Sushil Modi are seen as strong ministerial probables amid indications that some allies of the saffron party may also get berths.
  • The states which will go to the assembly polls early 2022, including the all-important Uttar Pradesh, may figure high.
  • West Bengal may also see its representation in the Union Council of Ministers go up, the sources said.
  • It is believed that the BJP’s allies like JD(U) and Apna Dal can also get representation.
  • Presently, Republican Party leader Ramdas Athawale, a junior minister, is the only ally in the government after parties like the Shiv Sena and the Shiromani Akali Dal severed ties with the BJP.
  • Lok Janshakti Party founder Ram Vilas Paswan, a Cabinet minister, had died in 2020 and all eyes are on whether his brother Pashupati Kumar Paras will be part of the expansion.
  • Paras is engaged in a bitter battle with Paswan’s son Chirag Paswan for the control of the party and has been recognised as the LJP leader in Lok Sabha after five of its six MPs lent their support to him.
  • The current strength of the Council of Ministers is 53, besides Modi, and its maximum number can be 81.
  • For the last few weeks, Modi has been meeting Union ministers in groups with BJP president J P Nadda also being present in the exercise to review their works and gather feedback.
  • The BJP brass has also held organisational meetings in different states.

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