Cabinet may see a rise in representation from the southern part of India where BJP is trying to make a mark.
NEW DELHI: The Narendra Modi Cabinet is likely to see a reshuffle after 15 December, when the upcoming winter session of Parliament ends. This move will be the last such political action before the May 2024 general elections.
The schedule for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections was announced by the Election Commission of India (ECI) on 10 March 2014, on the lines of the announcement for the 2014 polls, following which the Model Code of Conduct came into effect. Assuming the ECI will follow a similar schedule for the 2024 elections, the Modi government now has roughly 15 months or fewer than 500 days before the Code of Conduct comes into place.
Party leaders, while speaking to The Sunday Guardian, stated that mentioning the names of those who would be dropped or would be included in this Cabinet reshuffle would amount to “speculation” and “guesswork” as these names are known only to the Prime Minister and a couple of other individuals within the party, including Home Minister Amit Shah.
According to these party sources, the reshuffle timing is based on the fact that the new incoming leaders and those existing ministers, whose ministries will be changed, will need some time to get a grasp of their respective ministries and roles.
Two sitting Union Ministers, however, said that it was expected that the Cabinet would likely see an increase in representation from the southern part of India, where the BJP is striving hard to make a mark, which it believes is necessary to compensate for the loss of seats that it is likely to experience in northern and western India, especially in Bihar, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh when the country votes in the 2024 elections.
The BJP has 25 MPs in Karnataka and four in Telangana. Apart from these two states, Andhra Pradesh (25 Lok Sabha seats), Kerala (20), and Tamil Nadu (39) are the five states that are regarded as the “South Indian” belt.
These five states, in total, send 129 MPs to the Lok Sabha, nine more than the total Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, from where, as of now, there are 20 Union Ministers, including the Prime Minister. Of these 20, 15 are from UP, while five are from Bihar. Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri is also a Rajya Sabha member from UP.
The Cabinet as of now has 80 members—29 Cabinet Ministers including Prime Minister Modi, two Ministers of State (Independent charge), and 47 Ministers of State. As per the Constitution, the size of the Council of Ministers cannot be more than 15% of the numbers in the Lok Sabha—81, which is 15% of 543)
The government carried out its last reshuffle in July 2021. Among the many notable features of this exercise – included the dropping of a few heavy-weight ministers and the inclusion of seven MPs from Uttar Pradesh in wake of the assembly polls that were scheduled in the state for February 2022. In all 36 news faces were inducted into the ministry, while the portfolio of 7 was changed and 12 ministers, including Ravi Shankar Prasad, Harsh Vardhan, Ramesh Nishank Pokhriyal, and Prakash Javadekar dropped on account of ‘poor performance’.