Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s meeting with top ministers as well as the BJP chief at his residence at 5pm on Tuesday — amid growing buzz of a cabinet reshuffle later in the week — now stands cancelled.
Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, BJP chief JP Nadda and party national general secretary BL Santhosh were expected to attend the meeting among others.
In a series of interactions held in the first fortnight of June, PM Modi was said to be focusing on the performance of the ministries given the massive challenge of Covid-19 that has wreaked havoc across the country in its second wave. The meetings have lasted anywhere between three to five hours with both cabinet as well as ministers of state being asked to attend the same. On June 5, Modi spoke to morcha chiefs of the BJP, including those of farmers, youth, SC/ST and women. A day later, he met party general secretaries.
Ever since the Modi government came to power in May 2019, there has been no expansion in the Union Cabinet despite some ministers chairing as many as three Cabinet portfolios whereas some ministries do not have an MoS. With the withdrawal of Akali Dal from the NDA, the Modi government currently has ministers only from the BJP.
Political pundits have also indicated that the JD(U), a key ally of the BJP in Bihar, would like to be represented in the ministry. Jyotiraditya Scindia, who joined the BJP in March 2019, is still waiting to be given a ministerial berth after having delivered the results in Madhya Pradesh. Sarbananda Sonowal who was replaced by Himanta Biswa Sarma as Assam chief Minister, is also likely to be accommodated in the cabinet as would former deputy chief minister of Bihar Sushil Modi.
With Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Goa, Manipur, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh facing assembly polls next year, the BJP wants to add more votes to its kitty. The focus is on several castes and groups that have gone unrepresented or underrepresented in the union and state cabinets. So some faces from western UP, some unrepresented castes or groups, etc, are likely to be given prominent positions in Delhi and even in Uttar Pradesh.
There is a famous saying, “The road to Delhi passes through Lucknow." So, a series of meetings at the organisational levels, and UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath meeting the PM and Shah indicate that some new faces are likely to be inducted. This further adds fuel to the speculation that a cabinet expansion may take place soon.
BJP’s alliance partner from Bihar, Janata Dal (United), wants its two MPs to be inducted as union ministers. But the ruling BJP has made it clear that it will be a cabinet post and another for a minister of state. The Modi government also wanted to include Andhra Pradesh’s ruling YSR Congress in the cabinet but it had indicated its disinclination so far. The Andhra party has bailed the BJP out many times in Parliament with its numbers. Chief minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy meeting Shah and others indicates that attempts may be on to give a fresh touch to the NDA cabinet.