‘It will highlight individuals who will lead the party from the front in the coming 5-10 years’.
New Delhi: The much anticipated cabinet expansion that is likely to take place sometime in July is being keenly watched by BJP leaders as it will unravel the hierarchy of leaders within the party who have gained prominence in the past few years.
According to BJP leaders, the cabinet expansion will bring out in public the individuals who will be leading the party from the front in the coming 5-10 years. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called a meeting of council of ministers on 30 June and it is expected that those who will be dropped from the cabinet will be thanked by the PM and the other ministers for “their service”.
Of the 59 ministers in the Modi cabinet, 21 have cabinet ranks, 9 have independent charges while 29 are Minister of State. The Union cabinet can have a maximum of 81 ministers. Of these 59, 10 are Rajya Sabha MPs. The remaining 49 ministers, who are Lok Sabha MPs, represent 21 states.
The maximum number of representation in the cabinet is from Uttar Pradesh (8), Maharashtra (6), Bihar (5), Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat (4 each), Rajasthan (3), Odisha, Haryana and West Bengal have two each with the remaining ministers coming from Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Delhi, Goa, Jammu and Kashmir, Assam, Telangana, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Punjab and Arunachal Pradesh
A party leader from Bihar said that supporters of party general Secretary and Bihar in-charge Bhupender Yadav, who is a lawyer by training, believes that he is sure to get a place in the cabinet due to the work that he has done in the past 2-3 years and his closeness to former party president Amit Shah.
“Yadav is among the most influential men in the party, perhaps among the top ten and he enjoys complete trust of Shah. He has taken quick steps within the party and he is handling crucial states including Gujarat. In Bihar BJP, his word is the last. He is interested in working with his other party colleagues who are a part of the cabinet”, a former Bihar BJP minister told The Sunday Guardian. If inducted, Yadav will be the second Yadav face in the Modi cabinet after Nityanand Rai, who is the Minister of Home (State).
Kolkata-based BJP leaders believe that atleast two MPs from the state are likely to be inducted. State party leaders told The Sunday Guardian that Cooch Behar MP Nisith Pramanik and Dr Subhash Sarkar who is a MP from Bankura are likely to get a place with Babul Supriyo, who is a MP from Asansol, being dropped. The party leadership is also weighing the pros and cons of inducting Bongaon MP Shantanu Thakur, in whose stronghold, the party was able to win 12 of the 14 seats in recent assembly elections, in the cabinet.
Another leader who will be inducted in the cabinet is former Assam CM Sarbanand Sonowal, who “graciously” offered his place to his colleague Himanta Biswa Sarma. Former Bihar deputy CM and a long term finance minister Sushil Modi’s name is being discussed prominently in the party circles as someone who should be given a place considering his expertise and the present financial and economic challenges the country is facing. Sources close to Modi said that he has not reached out to anyone, as is the normal practice during an impending cabinet reshuffle, to push his name for a place in the cabinet.
The most discussed name in the party circles, in Delhi and in Bhopal, is Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan and his possible induction in the cabinet, which is going to be the last such exercise before the 2024 May general elections kicks in.
While Chouhan himself is not too keen to move to Delhi, the BJP leadership wants him at the center for two reasons; to utilize his vast administrative experience and to make space in Bhopal so that the next generation of leaders can come on fore.
Jyotiraditya Scindia being given a place in the cabinet, irrespective of Chouhan ’s possible entry, is being described as a “foregone conclusion”.
From Chhattisgarh, former Chhattisgarh CM Raman Singh and party RS MP and prominent woman face, Saroj Pandey, who had missed out from being inducted into the cabinet in May 2019, are being discussed as possible entrants.
In wake of the elections that are going to take place in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, the party leadership will be giving a place to a Brahmin Lok Sabha MP to correct the perception that the BJP state government was “anti-Brahmin”.
From Uttarakhand, national spokesperson Anil Baluni who has created a positive impression on those who matter might be rewarded if Ajay Tamta does not get in.
The name of West Delhi MP, Parvesh Verma is being pushed by a prominent section of the party in order to develop him as someone who will lead the BJP Delhi unit which for quite some years has been “directionless”.
Nitish Kumar has been asked to give two names for a place in the cabinet, JDU leaders told the Sunday Guardian.
The party has 16 Lok Sabha MPs and five Rajya Sabha MPs of which Harivansh Singh is the deputy speaker of the Rajya Sabha. Nitish, according to a party spokesperson, is likely to send the names of Rajiv Ranjan (MP from Munger) and Rajya Sabha MP Ram Chandra Prasad Singh.