New Delhi/Panaji, Nov 6: The long-awaited revamp of the Union Cabinet that ruled India since late May will lighten the burden on some ministers and give Prime Minister Narendra Modi a chance to promote high achievers while getting rid of a few who have failed to keep pace.
According to sources, Modi is likely to reshuffle and expand his council of ministers on Sunday, with Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar tipped to get the key defence portfolio and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi set to return as a cabinet minister.
Earlier Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who holds additional charge of the defence portfolio, had said that this was only a temporary arrangement.
Meanwhile, 58-year-old Parrikar flew to Delhi early on Wednesday after cancelling a meeting of his state cabinet, and met BJP chief Amit Shah and, later in the day, Modi.
After meeting the Prime Minister, the Goa chief minister said: “The Prime Minister did not talk about my joining the cabinet; we discussed Goa issues.”
He, however, on Thursday broke his silence about his possible appointment as defence minister, and said that BJP chief Amit Shah had asked him to take up an assignment at the Centre, if offered, and that he was willing to shoulder the responsibility.
He also said though he does not feel comfortable about shifting to Delhi, he will take up the responsibility “if nation requires” his services.
Speaking to mediapersons in Panaji, Parrikar said: “Party President Amit Shah spoke to me in the morning and asked me to accept any assignment that would be given by the Prime Minister.”
“I want to give proper information as far as joining the cabinet is concerned. It is the prerogative of the Prime Minister. However, I would like to inform that the party has indicated to me that if such assignment comes, you should accept it,” he said.
The likely move of the well-regarded chief minister to Delhi will leave the BJP with a big hole to plug in Goa, and party leaders were in discussions about his replacement.
Sources also informed that Former minister of state in the Vajpayee government, Naqvi is likely to become minister in charge of statistics and planning. His entry will provide the cabinet another prominent Muslim face after minority affairs minister Najma Heptulla.
Jayant Sinha, who holds a Harvard MBA and is the son of former finance minister Yashwant Sinha, is likely to be inducted as minister of state (MoS), either in the defence or finance ministry.
Nirmala Sitharaman may be promoted from MoS to cabinet minister, likely in charge of the commerce and industry ministry, and give up her current additional role as MoS in the finance ministry.
The reports also add that Haryana leader Birender Singh, who had crossed over from the Congress to the BJP ahead of the Haryana Assembly election, is understood to be in contention for a berth in the council of ministers. He is likely to get independent charge of a ministry.
BJP’s youth wing chief Anurag Thakur, a Lok Sabha MP from Himachal Pradesh, and Maharashtra MP Hansraj Gangaram Ahir, who was instrumental in uncovering the coal block scam, are other probable candidates.
Bihar MPs Ashwini Kumar Choubey, a Brahmin, and Giriraj Singh, a Bhumihar, are also stated to be serious contenders for the council of ministers.
Ravi Shankar Prasad (law, communication & IT), Prakash Javadekar (I&B and environment), Nitin Gadkari (rural development, road transport & highway, panchayati raj and drinking water) and Piyush Goyal (power, coal, new and renewable energy) are among the ministers who hold multiple portfolios.
Speculation is also rife about changes in Rail Bhawan and in Krishi Bhawan. Given the PM’s motto of “minimum government, maximum governance”, the sources ruled out any large scale expansion.
It may be noted that Narendra Modi’s present team includes 22 cabinet ministers and an equal number of MoS.
(With Agency Inputs)