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New year, new cabinet: Modi govt and BJP set for major overhaul

Sameer Chougaonkar | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 3:04 IST

Ringing in the changes

  • PM Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah have reportedly finalised plans for a cabinet reshuffle
  • With an eye on upcoming assembly polls, states like Assam and Uttarakhand may get better representation

Paying the price

  • Ministers from Bihar are likely to be dropped after the recent assembly poll debacle
  • Those who haven\'t performed up to scratch in Modi\'s estimation are likely to be axed

The new year is likely to see a major overhaul in the Narendra Modi cabinet, as well as in the BJP's organisational structure.

The PM and party president Amit Shah have reportedly finalised reshuffle plans in a recent one-on-one meeting. In the wake of the electoral debacle in Bihar and many crucial assembly elections in the next couple of years, the leaders agreed that structure also needs a shake-up.

A few central ministers could be deputed to the party, while some party functionaries may be relieved of their duties.

Currently, the government has a total of 65 ministers - 27 belonging to the cabinet rank, 25 ministers of state (MoS) and 13 MoSs with independent charge. Of these, seven cabinet ministers, four MoS Independent Charge and one MoS are members of the Rajya Sabha.

Ministers from Bihar, including BJP ally Upendra Kushwaha, might get the sack after the poll debacle

Who could be axed?

  • Ministers who have not been able to fulfill Modi's expectations.
  • Ministers from Bihar, as punishment for the debacle in the state assembly polls.
  • According to sources, Ram Kripal Yadav and Giriraj Singh could be replaced.

  • BJP ally Upendra Kushwaha from the Rashtriya Lok Samta Party could also pay the price for his party's non-performance in Bihar.
  • Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti and Ram Shankar Katheria from Uttar Pradesh could also be shown the door.

  • Shah's first term as party president ends in January, and he is almost certain to get one more term as party president. He might have asked Modi to relieve some of his favourites to take charge of the party organisation.

Who might get new portfolios?

  • Portfolios are likely to be shuffled around, with those who have achieved in the PM's eyes getting promotions.
  • Agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh, who hails from Bihar, may be given charge of a new ministry.
  • Some of the women ministers are also likely to be shuffled around. Minority Affairs Minister Najma Heptuallah, Women and Child Welfare Minister Maneka Gandhi and Human Resources Development Minister Smriti Irani might get new ministries to handle.

  • Maneka wants her son Varun to be made a minister, and it remains to be seen whether she makes way for him or they both get inducted into the cabinet.

  • Smriti may be removed from the cabinet altogether and given significant responsibility within the party, even though Shah is reluctant to induct her into his core team. The RSS, too, is reportedly unhappy with her performance.
  • One minister who might not be touched at all is Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma. The RSS is said to be happy with his performance in one of its pet ministries.

Who is likely to be inducted?

  • This overhaul is being planned predominantly with the next two years' assembly elections in mind. But some sources suggest this may be the last major reshuffle till the next general elections, in which case the party will also keep one eye on that.
  • Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry are slated for elections in 2016. Of these, Assam is the only state where the party has a real chance of gaining some ground. But it is currently underrepresented in the cabinet, with Sports and Youth Affairs Minister Sarbananda Sonowal being the state's sole representative.
  • Similarly, Babul Supriyo is the party's lone minister from West Bengal, while from Tamil Nadu, there's only P. Radhakrishnan.

  • In 2017, polls are scheduled in Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa, Punjab and Gujarat.

  • UP has the most number of central ministers, while Uttarakhand has none. Himachal Pradesh is poorly represented - only Rajya Sabha member JP Nadda is a cabinet minister. In contrast, a small state like Goa has two ministers, Manohar Parrikar and Shripad Naik.
  • Punjab already has a BJP minister in the form of Vijay Sampla, in addition to those belonging to ally Akali Dal.

  • There are already three ministers of state from Gujarat. Considering that the Prime Minister and the party president are also from the state, it is unlikely to get any more berths in the proposed overhaul.
  • In addition to all these, there are rumours that the Shiv Sena may get one more ministerial berth.

First published: 30 December 2015, 12:39 IST