New Delhi: Union Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot was dropped from the Union cabinet and appointed the governor of Karnataka Tuesday noon, kicking off the process of the much talked about cabinet reshuffle in the Modi government.
Government sources told ThePrint that the cabinet reshuffle is likely to take place Wednesday or Thursday, and some BJP leaders, who are likely to get inducted in the Union cabinet, have already been told to reach Delhi. This would be the first reshuffle in the cabinet after the PM Modi-led NDA started its second term in office two years ago.
With Gehlot’s removal, there are currently 52 ministers in the Modi cabinet. Government sources said the cabinet expansion could see over a dozen new inductees.
Among the possible new faces is Rajya Sabha MP Jyotiraditya Scindia, who left the Congress last year to join the BJP and was instrumental in bringing down the Kamal Nath government in Madhya Pradesh. Incidentally, Gehlot is an MP from Madhya Pradesh.
An aide of Scindia told ThePrint that the BJP leader will leave from Indore for Delhi at 3.30 pm Tuesday.
Meanwhile, former Assam CM Sarbanand Sonowal has already left Guwahati to reach Delhi. Sonowal, who made way for Himanta Biswa Sarma to be sworn in as Assam CM, is speculated to get a seat in the cabinet as a reward for his ‘sacrifice’.
The reshuffle comes at a time the ruling BJP is firming up its agenda for upcoming assembly polls in several states, primarily Uttar Pradesh. The most populous state in India, UP accounts for 80 Lok Sabha seats. In the previous assembly election, BJP won a clear majority with 312 of the 403 seats.
“Uttar Pradesh elections are crucial for the party and there is a strong likelihood of Anupriya Patel of the Apna Dal being inducted. At the same time RCP Singh of JD(U) and Lallan Singh are already in Delhi,” said a BJP leader.
Also read: Ministers questioned on Covid work, gaps in govt schemes at PM Modi’s ‘feedback session’
The ally factor
A second BJP leader ThePrint spoke to said that the reshuffle is being done keeping in mind the interests of all ally partners, especially the Janata Dal (United), Apna Dal and Lok Janshakti Party.
Government sources told ThePrint that talks with JD(U) leaders are still underway on the names to be accommodated in the cabinet.
The BJP is likely to back Chirag Paswan’s uncle, Pashupati Nath Paras from the LJP quota after the split between Paswan and his uncle. “He (Paras) has already expressed his desire to be part of the cabinet and is also expected in Delhi,” added the BJP leader. Paras is a Dalit face.
According to another source, the idea behind the reshuffle is not just to address the recent poll performances and concerns raised by the pandemic, but to have a “young” cabinet. “Gehlot ji has been made the governor and he’s 73 … it shows the idea is to have a young cabinet in place,” said the leader.
A long exercise was carried out at the party level and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also chaired a meeting that lasted more than five hours on 30 June to decide on the names.
Another candidate expected to join the cabinet ranks is Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi, who was not given a portfolio after the Bihar assembly polls.
“There is a strong buzz that one of the general secretaries from the BJP will also find a place in the government, which will lead to some changes at the organisational level for the party too,” added the BJP leader.
“A number of ministers, who have more than one portfolio, may be asked to give them up so that others can be accommodated. Many are holding multiple ministries that will be redistributed,” said the leader.
Also read: Modi needs a new team. Unless the PMO wants to keep running India
Eight governors appointed
Apart from Gehlot, seven governors were appointed Tuesday. However, Gehlot is the only cabinet member to have been moved.
P.S. Sreedharan Pillai, governor of Mizoram, was transferred as governor of Goa. Haryana Governor Satyadev Narayan Arya has been appointed the governor of Tripura, while Bandaru Dattatraya, governor of Himachal Pradesh, was transferred in Arya’s place.
Governor Ramesh Bais has been moved from Tripura to Jharkhand. Hari Babu Kambhampati has been appointed as Mizoram’s governor, and Mangubhai Chhaganbhai Patel has been appointed as MP’s governor.
(Edited by Manasa Mohan)
Also read: Yediyurappa reshuffles portfolios for the 2nd time in 24 hours to stamp out dissidence