Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to reshuffle his Cabinet shortly after the declaration of the Bihar Assembly election results. He is also actively considering a proposal to appoint and transfer Governors, keeping in view the elections in several states next year. Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh, Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan could be drafted in the Cabinet to utilise their vast political experience. Similarly, Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel could be sent on a Gubernatorial assignment to pave the way for a new incumbent in the western state, which has been a BJP stronghold since the last 20 years.
Similarly, Tathagata Roy, who was appointed as the Governor of Tripura some months ago, may be asked to quit and get back to active politics in West Bengal, where Assembly elections are due next year. Roy is an old BJP activist, who has thorough ground knowledge of the politics of the state. Though the exact date of the much awaited Cabinet reshuffle is not clear, it could take place either before Dipavali or just ahead of the winter session of Parliament.
Sources said that Modi has also taken the top brass of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) into confidence regarding his plans. Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah, who is considered to be very close to the Prime Minister, met him two days ago to brief him on the ramifications of the Bihar elections and also discussed with him the political strategy for the future. Shah also met the RSS leadership, whose key members were in the capital this week and were camping at the Jhandewalan headquarters. The RSS has been very concerned with various political developments which have had an impact on the social fabric of the country and is keen that the growing perception about the ineffectiveness of the Central government should be immediately corrected.
Sources said that the Prime Minister could shuffle his top five or six Cabinet colleagues depending on the outcome of the Bihar elections. If the BJP and its allies win comfortably, he may shift Rajnath Singh out of the Home portfolio and give him the Defence Ministry. Shivraj Singh Chouhan or Raman Singh could come in his place in the Home Ministry. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who is a confidant of the Prime Minister, would continue to play a pivotal role in the government. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar is seen as a man with a very bright political future given his unblemished integrity. He could be the new External Affairs Minister in place of Sushma Swaraj who could be either shifted to the Human Resources Development Ministry or the Information and Broadcasting Ministry.
Even if the BJP were to lose the polls, he would still carry out the changes, although they would not be very drastic in order to deflect the attention from the outcome. The Bihar election results would not have any bearing on the Prime Minister, who continues to be the most popular leader in the country and has the people’s mandate to rule until 2019. But he would be required to improve his political management, especially in Parliament, where the opposition has been in an unforgiving mood, especially in the Upper House. A victory in Bihar would make things easy for the government, but a defeat may give the opposition some new ammunition to take on the NDA government.
Sources said that there was a proposal to also merge the transport related ministries into one with a common Cabinet Minister. If the Prime Minister accepts the proposal, the Ministry of Railways, Road Transport and Civil Aviation may be merged with Nitin Gadkari as its head. Gadkari is considered close to the RSS hierarchy and Modi may elevate his status in order to appease the Sangh bosses. Consequently, the Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapati Raju, who is Chandrababu Naidu’s nominee, could be accommodated in some ministry. There is speculation that Suresh Prabhu, the Railway Minister, may quit active politics and may be made a Governor. He has done a very good job in the ministry but has apparently expressed a desire to withdraw himself from active politics. If that happens, Prabhu’s seat in Rajya Sabha from Haryana may go to someone of the Prime Minister’s choice or a new Cabinet Minister.
There has also been speculation about Smriti Zubin Irani getting a plum assignment in the Cabinet, thereby relieving her of the HRD portfolio. If Sushma Swaraj gets HRD, she would be a candidate for Information and Broadcasting. Some of the non performing ministers in the government, or those who have been politically inconvenient to the Prime Minister, would be dropped or downsized. The Bihar result would also determine the political future of Amit Shah, whose term would be either renewed in December or he may be accommodated in the Cabinet or in Gujarat politics.