Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming reshuffle of his council of ministers is likely to be on 9 November, two days before he leaves for his eight-day three-nation tour — is going to bring up many surprises.
Some incumbent ministers may see their wings clipped or even dropped. New ministers are set to be inducted. Current ministers are likely to be reshuffled, some involving big names.
The probable dates of the reshuffle, as suggested by this writer, had to be postponed a bit as Modi has decided to spend two full days in his parliamentary constituency Varanasi on 7-8 November, his maiden visit to Varanasi since taking over as PM.
The big evolving likely scenario is that the Shiv Sena may not figure at all in this expansion-cum-reshuffle. Sources say that the Modi-Amit Shah-Devendra Fadnavis team seems to have decided to snub Shiv Sena, thus ignoring the Sena “ultimatum” to decide on the Maharashtra portfolios by 8 November.
The immediate fallout of the upcoming cabinet expansion/reshuffle exercise would thus send important signals to Maharashtra where the Devendra Fadnavis government has to face the floor test in Maharashtra assembly by next week. If this indeed happens, the Shiv Sena might well be sitting in the opposition in the Maharashtra assembly.
Another likely scenario in the upcoming cabinet reshuffle is going to be that of the four CCS (Cabinet Committee on Security) ministries – Home, Finance, Defence and External Affairs – the last one is likely to be untouched.
This means that External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is likely to emerge unscathed in the impending reshuffle, while the same cannot be said about the other CCS ministers.
Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar, who is camping in Delhi and met Modi as well as BJP president Amit Shah on Wednesday, is all set to be drafted into the union cabinet in an important position. The most likely scenario is that Parrikar may get defence, a ministry that Arun Jaitley has been looking after for past five and a half months.
However, tongues have been wagging in the South Block about Parrikar landing up the prize ministry of Home and shifting of the Home Minister Rajnath Singh to defence. While the rumour mills have been working overtime in this context, given the “perceived” relations between Rajnath Singh and PM Modi, it is difficult to come up with anything with finality.
There are two new names which are sure to figure in the upcoming rejig of the council of ministers: Hansraj Ahir,who exposed the coal scam during the UPA regime, and Saurabh Patel, Gujarat’s energy minister. Hansraj Ahir is going to be the new coal minister with the rank of minister of state (independent charge).
These two new names may come at the expense of the incumbent Piyush Goel, who is holding three key portfolios of Power, Coal and New and renewable Energy. It is understood that PM Modi is not particularly happy with Goel. One, his alleged dalliances with industrial magnates have evoked Modi’s ire.
Secondly, Goel recently cut a sorry figure with the PM when he told him that he had been invited by an American university for a lecture and jubilantly informed him that he would be briefing his American audience about Modi’s pet schemes.
Goel’s meeting with Modi proved to be a disaster when the PM demanded to know what will happen to the coal case which was to come up before the Supreme Court. Modi told him point blank that he was to free to travel to the US but in that event he would have to appoint a new coal minister. Needless to say that Goel dumped his idea to visit the US.
Prakash Javdekar too, who has been handling three ministries of information and broadcasting, environment and forests and parliamentary affairs, is likely to be affected in the upcoming reshuffle. The high-profile Information and Broadcasting Ministry may be taken away from him.
Smriti Irani, the Human Resource Development minister who is among Modi’s favourites, may get I&B ministry, though it will have to be seen whether she gets it as an additional charge or as a replacement.