New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has, through an elaborate exercise, identified underperforming ministries, and is likely, in the next few days, to go in for a Cabinet reshuffle. Effectively, the Modi Cabinet will have a new look, in the New Year, with several fresh faces inducted in the government, to ensure the smooth implementation of policies and schemes.
On Saturday morning, the Prime Minister met his colleagues to commence the appraisal of various ministries and departments, as well as those heading them. According to informed sources, the ministries were divided into eight clusters so as to review the progress made since the government entered its second term following the Parliamentary polls.
The Prime Minister is understood to have worked out a mechanism where each minister or the top functionary of the ministry or department, if required, would be given a chance to present his case. The idea is that Modi would like to provide a cogent reason on why he had dropped someone while retaining others. The purpose is to make the entire exercise appear well-reasoned and transparent.
There has been intense speculation regarding a change in ministries, dealing with the economic and financial aspects of the government. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has been under fire from the top economists in the country, but if she manages to hold on to her job, it would clearly imply that she has the Prime Minister’s confidence. The Ministry of Human Resources Development has also been under enormous scrutiny and Union Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal could come under the axe unless he furnishes a satisfactory explanation regarding its functioning.
The Prime Minister is believed to be in favour of ending dual charges held by select ministers. He is eager to provide an opportunity to new incumbents and also wants to expand the base of the Cabinet. At present, after a Shiv Sena member quit the government, the NDA allies have only two berths in the Council of Ministers—Ram Vilas Paswan and Harsimrat Kaur Badal.
Informed sources stated that the Prime Minister directly or through emissaries, has been having a dialogue with the NDA partners to ascertain their views on joining his government. The Janata Dal (United) headed by Nitish Kumar has indicated that it would want two Cabinet slots plus a Minister of State as well. The Cabinet positions should preferably include the Railway Ministry.
Similarly, the AIADMK has expressed its willingness to join the Central government. However, there seem to be differences between the Chief Minister and the Deputy Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, on who should be the nominees from the state. The BJP has initiated a dialogue with the Telangana Chief Minister and his Andhra counterpart, on whether their parties would be open to the idea of being part of the national government. The Biju Janata Dal, which has been maintaining political neutrality, has as yet not responded to overtures made to its leader about Cabinet induction.
Sources said that Ram Vilas Paswan, who has not been keeping good health, has communicated to the BJP leadership that instead of him, his son, Chirag Paswan, should be considered for a Cabinet post. According to those close to the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) leader, Paswan would be interested in making himself available for the Vice President’s office after Venkaiah Naidu’s tenure ends, a demand unlikely to be conceded by the Prime Minister.
The Akalis too desire a larger share in the Central government, and would want to get at least one more berth. Former Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal could be a fresh inductee due to his vast experience. However, he would not want to be on board if this was done at the expense of Harsimrat, his wife.
It is reliably learnt that after the Cabinet revamping exercise is completed, the BJP could commence a similar operation in the central party, whose overhaul is on the cards, given that J.P. Nadda, in the near future, would be replacing Amit Shah formally. Presently, the party is preparing for the critical Delhi Assembly elections slated for February 2020. The party’s Parliamentary Board is yet to take a decision on who could be projected as the Chief Ministerial face. Several leaders in the BJP are in favour of Union Health Minister, Dr Harsh Vardhan as the party’s Delhi CM nominee, but the minister himself does not sound too intent on accepting a position, which is lower than the one he currently holds.