Amid the cabinet reshuffle buzz with PM Narendra Modi holding frequent meetings with party stalwarts at his residence last month, the sources reported that reshuffle and possible expansion of Modi’s cabinet is expected in a day or two. Currently the Union Cabinet has 53 ministers. However the new cabinet may have 81 members meaning induction of possible 28 new ministers. This is the first reshuffle-cum-expansion since PM Modi returned to power in 2019. This may be noted that there are several ministers who are holding multiple portfolios and some ministers have succumbed to Covid. Reports suggest new faces could be given the responsibility of such ministries.

The rejig is likely to reward Jyotiraditya Scindia, whose defection from the Congress last year helped the BJP take back Madhya Pradesh; and Sarbananda Sonowal, who made way for Himanta Biswa Sarma as Assam Chief Minister after the BJP won a second term. From Uttar Pradesh (set for Assembly Elections next year), Anupriya Patel, who leads BJP’s alliance partner Apna Dal, is among the probables.  BJP MPs Varun Gandhi and Rita Bahuguna Joshi could also be included in the Cabinet.

As a result of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s June 22 visit to New Delhi, speculation circulated about his Janata Dal (United) joining the Modi government and receiving ministerial berths.  Among those who could be included in the expansion and reshuffle of the Union Cabinet are former Bihar deputy chief minister Sushil Modi, BJP general secretary Bhupender Yadav (Rajasthan), and former Maharashtra CM Narayan Rane.

The reshuffle is being prompted by some vacancies caused by deaths of ministers, such as Ram Vilas Paswan and Suresh Angadi, and the resignation of Akali Dal and Shiv Sena leaders. The sources say that last month PM Modi met with Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP chief JP Nadda over a series of review meetings to zero in on the possible names. The exercise promises to be a carefully calibrated one, with sharp focus on the next Lok Sabha election. The performance of all ministries was extensively reviewed, particularly how they fared in the devastating second wave of Covid.