In a major rejig before the General Elections of 2019, Union Cabinet reshuffle, expansion, and swearing-in ceremony of newly inducted ministers will take place on August 3; ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to China for BRICKS summit starting September 3.

Reportedly, National General Secretary of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Ram Madhav is dubbed to get a major portfolio in the upcoming reshuffle.

Union Ministers Uma Bharati, Radha Mohan Singh, Giriraj Singh, Kalraj Mishra, Nirmala Sitharaman, Mahendra Nath Pandey, Faggan Singh Kulaste and Sanjiv Baliyan have offered to quit to pave way for the Cabinet reshuffle, BJP sources said.

The reshuffle is the third by Modi since coming to power in May 2014.

Following a series of developments, with Union Minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy along with four others have resigned from their posts, the reshuffle is most likely to take place at around 10 AM on Sunday.

As per sources, Rudy, who held the independent charge in the ministry of State Skill Development and Entrepreneurship is expected to be assigned organizational work.

Speaking on his resignation, Rudy said it was the decision of the party and he had resigned. Balyan said he was asked to resign and he would always follow the party directives. However, Uma Bharti was evasive when asked if she had resigned. “I have not heard your questions. I have no right to speak on the issue. Only those who have been authorised by the party chief can speak,” she informed the media.  

Sources in the BJP said the decision to seek resignations from ministers was based purely on performance.

“The Prime Minister and the party President has assessed the work of the ministers, and then have taken a call on some of them,” a senior BJP leader close to the leadership said on condition of anonymity.

He said ministers, including Dharmendra Pradhan, Piyush Goyal and Manoj Sinha, are likely to be promoted. Transport and Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari’s name is doing the rounds for the Railway Minister’s post. There is speculation that an integrated Ministry of Transport, including all the portfolios held by Gadkari, could be created. Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu had offered to quit last week in the wake of two major back-to-back train derailments that claimed more than 30 lives. However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has kept it on hold.

Kalraj Mishra, Minister of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, may be made a Governor as he has crossed the unofficial bar of 75 years for one to hold a ministerial post at the Centre.

Amit Shah, who is in Vrindavan to attend the three-day RSS coordination meet, is likely to discuss the proposed changes with RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat there.

The new faces likely to join the union government include Bhupendra Yadav, Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, both Rajya Sabha members, Satyapal Singh, Prahlad Patel, Mahesh Girri and Harish Dwivedi (all members of Lok Sabha).

The reshuffle is mostly likely to see the entry of Janata Dal-United (JD-U) nominees into the ministry, with the party striking an alliance with the BJP in Bihar recently. From the JD-U quota Rajya Sabha MP R.C.P. Singh and Santosh Kumar are strong contenders. 

Ally Shiv Sena may get one more berth with Anil Desai, a Rajya Sabha member, making the grade. However, the other new ally AIADMK, about which much has been speculated, is unlikely to get berths for now in view of the fact that the party is undergoing a period of crisis. 

Some election-bound states, including Congress-ruled Karnataka, could get greater representation in the Council of Ministers. Prahlad Joshi and Suresh Angadi, both MPs from Karnataka, could make a debut at the Centre. Likewise, Anurag Thakur, Lok Sabha member from Hamirpur in Himachal Pradesh, could get the nod. Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections are due later this year, while Karnataka Assembly polls are slated for next year. 

There is speculation that Finance Minister Arun Jaitley may shed the additional charge of Defence he is holding now. 

A cabinet reshuffle has been on the cards since Manohar Parrikar resigned as Defence Minister to become Chief Minister of Goa in March this year. Arun Jaitley has been holding additional charge of the Defence Ministry since then.

Talk of a reshuffle gained ground after Jaitley on Thursday hinted that he would not continue to hold the Defence portfolio for long. “At least not for very long,” Jaitley said on Thursday in response to questions on how long he would continue as Defence Minister.

Besides Jaitley, three other union ministers are also holding additional charges of different ministries.

Textiles Minister Smriti Irani is holding additional charge of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, while Narendra Tomar has the Urban Development Ministry along with Rural Development after M. Venkaiah Naidu’s exit to become Vice President of India. 

Union Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan is holding additional charge of the Environment Ministry following the death of Anil Madhav Dave in May.

The last Cabinet reshuffle took place in July last year, in which Modi inducted 19 new faces and elevated Minister of State for Environment Prakash Javadekar to Cabinet rank. Five junior ministers were also dropped.

The size of the ministry at the moment is 73, including the Prime Minister. Of them 24 are of the Cabinet rank, 12 Ministers of State with independent charge while 36 are Ministers of State. 

Earlier, BJP president Amit Shah on Thursday conducted meeting with PM Modi and other senior BJP leaders to discuss portfolios.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) which had joined NDA after walking out of ‘Mahagathbandhan’ might get two berths in the new Cabinet.

Uma Bharti is also among the big names who resigned on Thursday. Though tight-lipped, Bharti cited her health as the reason behind her resignation.

The key portfolios to watch out for this time would be Defence, Railways, Finance, Environment, Information and Broadcasting and Urban development.

Few days ago, PM Modi and party president Amit Shah had met the chief ministers and deputy chief ministers of BJP-ruled states. Shah even cancelled his visit to Tamil Nadu from August 22 to 24 in the wake of reshuffle.

(With inputs from IANS)

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