Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s widely-anticipated cabinet expansion, probable ministers gathered in Delhi today. Some had arrived last evening while others took flights today.
Jyotiraditya Scindia took a flight to Delhi from Indore and Janata Dal leader RCP Singh also reached Delhi in the morning, according to sources.
Mr Scindia, whose defection led to the collapse of the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh last year, is likely to be rewarded for his role in getting the state back for the BJP. He was seen offering prayers at Ujjain’s famous Mahakal temple this morning before his flight to Delhi.
Former Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal, who agreed to give up the Chief Minister’s post in Assam for Himanta Biswa Sarma after the BJP’s reelection, is also likely to be accommodated in the Union government.
So is Pashupati Paras, who led the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) coup in Bihar against ex-Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan’s son Chirag Paswan. Mr Paras, spotted shopping for a kurta, clammed up when asked whether he had received an invite from Delhi and said: “Raaz ko raaz rehne do (let secrets be)”. Sources close to him say he received a call from Home Minister Amit Shah and promptly took a flight to Delhi last evening.
One vacancy has been created by Union Social Justice Minister Thawarchand Gehlot’s elevation as Governor of Karnataka. His Rajya Sabha term was till April 2024, so now a leader who is not a member of either house of parliament can be adjusted in the council of ministers and can be elected to the Rajya Sabha on Mr Gehlot’s remaining term. Dinesh Trivedi and Jitin Prasada, who switched to the BJP from the Trinamool and Congress, are two such leaders who fit the slot.
Other candidates for the oath ceremony who are in Delhi are Anupriya Patel (Apna Dal), Pankaj Chowdhury, Rita Bahuguna Joshi, Ramshankar Katheria, Varun Gandhi, Lallan Singh and Rahul Kaswan.
This morning, PM Modi’s meeting with top ministers and BJP chief JP Nadda, scheduled for 5 PM, was cancelled. Many saw it as a clear sign that cabinet changes would soon be announced.
The Union Cabinet, which can have 81 members, currently has 53 ministers. This means 28 ministers can be added.
As PM Modi expands his cabinet for the first time in his second term, he is likely to factor in polls in five states next year and the 2024 national election.
Leading up to the first cabinet changes since he started a second term in 2019, PM Modi carried out a month-long review of ministers’ performance, especially during the second wave of Covid in April-May, which had the government facing unprecedented criticism in the country and abroad.
Reports suggest some ministers may lose the extra ministries they had been in charge of. A few may see an upgrade in their portfolio, reports suggest.