Cabinet reshuffle talk gains momentum, Jaitley too hints

The appointment of Union Minister of State Mahendra Nath Pandey as the next BJP chief of Uttar Pradesh on Thursday has lent greater impetus to speculation of an imminent cabinet reshuffle.

There have been clear indications of an upcoming cabinet reshuffle from sources in the government and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, but the timing remains uncertain.

President Ram Nath Kovind embarks on a two-day visit to Andhra Pradesh on Friday and will be returning on Saturday while Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be leaving for China on Sunday.

Sources in the BJP said that a reshuffle may take place either on Saturday or sometime after the Prime Minister’s return from China and Myanmar.

BJP President Amit Shah, who is likely to be in Vrindavan for the next three days to attend an RSS coordination meet, on Thursday held meetings with some ministers and senior party leaders.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley are also likely to attend the meet in Vridavan on Saturday.

A cabinet reshuffle has been on the cards since Manohar Parrikar resigned as Defence Minister to become Chief Minister of Goa. Finance Minister 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 in response to questions on how long he would continue as Defence Minister.

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

Textiles Minister Smriti Irani is holding additional charge of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry portfolio, while Rural Development Minister Narendra Tomar has additional charge of the Urban Development Ministry after Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu resigned from his ministerial responsibilities to take up the high office.

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

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu had offered to resign owning moral responsibility for the recent train accidents, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi has put it on hold.

A reshuffle has also been on the cards after the Janata Dal-United faction of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar joined the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance and is all set to join the Union Cabinet.

After merger of two factions of the AIADMK — one led by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K. Palaniswami and the other by former Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam – there has been talk of the party joining the NDA but the recent political developments in the state have delayed the move.

Some election-bound states, including Congress-ruled Karnataka, could get greater representation in the council of ministers. Karnataka will go for assembly polls next year.

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.

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