Cabinet rejig: to counter Mayawati in UP, Modi may induct Dalit woman MP
As Narendra Modi finalises changes to his cabinet, likely on 5 July, the most significant factor likely to inform his decision is the impending Uttar Pradesh election.
Indeed, the expected induction of Krishna Raj, a Dalit woman MP, is seen as intended to counter BSP chief Mayawati. Several other BJP leaders from UP are expected to be rewarded as well. Mahesh Sharma, who holds independent charge of the culture ministry, is said to be up for promotion, as is the junior minister Sanjeev Balyan.
The two of them have of late gained prominence among the party faithful for espousing hardline Hindutva. Baliyan, MP from Muzaffarnagar, is accused of instigating the riots in his constituency in 2013, while Sharma allegedly made hate speeches in the aftermath of the Dadri lynching last year. Their elevation will send a message to the BJP rank and file that the party is committed to the core agenda of Hindutva.
Another name from UP that's being talked up for a cabinet berth is Mirzapur MP Anupriya Patel of Apna Dal, a BJP ally. Mahendra Pandey, BJP MP from Chandauli is also likely to take oath as a minister.
Mahendra Pandey, Anupriya Patel and Krishna Raj would make a "perfect" campaign team as they represent the three key voter blocks - Brahmin, OBC and Dalit, respectively.
By making these appointments, the prime minister would send a "message" that UP is "very important" for him. According to BJP insiders, this would work on two levels - one, it would blunt the criticism of Modi as an outsider to the state; two, it would reinforce his claim, made at the BJP's Parivartan rally in Allahabad last month, that "Uttar Pradesh dominates my cabinet". Home Minister Rajnath Singh is the most senior minister the state, while Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, although a resident Goa, is a Rajya Sabha MP from UP.
Other than this, there may be few changes, if any. "There is no possibility of changes at the top level of the cabinet. The top five will not be touched. The changes will be in the second and third rungs," said a BJP leader.
Some ministers may be sent back to work in the party. The name on top of this list is MoS, Panchayati Raj, Nihal Chand of Rajasthan. If he goes, he's likely to be replaced by Arjun Meghwal from the state state. MoS for HRD Ram Shankar Katheria may be sent back to the organisation as well.
Vijay Sampla, a junior minister, and Najma Heptullah, Minister for Minority Affairs, are likely to be dropped, while the fate of agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh hangs in the balance.