Modi Planning Cabinet Rejig With An Eye On 2019 Polls – Swarajya

There is a growing buzz in political circles that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will shortly undertake a reshuffle of the Union cabinet.

Senior leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who did not wish to be identified, disclosed that no specific timeline has been indicated for the reshuffle, but work has been initiated to shortlist names of those who will be inducted into the cabinet.

As and when it effects the reshuffle, it will be the third in this tenure of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

With less than two years to go for the next general election, a revamp of the team will be with the intent of sharpening the execution of government programmes to demonstrate deliverables on the ground. At the same time, some of the cabinet members may be drawn into party work as the BJP begins its preparations for 2019.

To be sure, some vacancies have emerged in the cabinet due to the sudden demise of environment minister Anil Madhav Dave and the return of defence minister Manohar Parrikar to state politics.

“There is no doubt that a cabinet reshuffle is due but at the end of the day it is the prerogative of the prime minister to decide the timing of the cabinet reshuffle. There is a possibility that some of the sitting ministers would be called back to the party so that they could be given the charge of specific states where BJP is planning to increase its presence in the coming days,” said a senior BJP leader.

Modi first expanded his cabinet in November 2014 when he inducted 21 new faces, including Defence Minister Parrikar, Health Minister J P Nadda and Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu. In July last year, Modi undertook another reshuffle in which he promoted senior leader Prakash Javadekar as the Human Resource Development Minister, replacing Smriti Irani, who was shifted to textiles.

The cabinet reshuffle is likely to happen in tandem with a revamp of the BJP.

“A major reshuffle is likely in BJP in the coming days. The party leadership wants to bring back some of the former general secretaries who had played decisive roles in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. These senior leaders would be appointed in-charge of a specific state,” the BJP leader added.

The BJP is going all out to increase its voter base in states where it has traditionally been weak both organisationally and electorally.

Two years before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, BJP leaders have identified 164 Lok Sabha seats where the party needs to improve its tally. The states where BJP is focusing are West Bengal, which has 42 Lok Sabha seats; Odisha, with 21 seats; Tamil Nadu, which has 39 seats and is battling political uncertainty after the death of former chief minister J Jayalalithaa; Andhra Pradesh, which has 25 seats, and Telangana, with 17 seats. BJP president Amit Shah has just concluded a three-day tour of Kerala, which has 20 Lok Sabha seats.

“We can expect some surprises because there is a deliberate attempt to make the party stronger in Odisha and West Bengal. The government also has to compensate for two senior leaders, Parrikar, who shifted to Goa, and Anil Madhav Dave, who died recently,” said Jai Mrug, a Mumbai-based political analyst.

This piece was first published on the Mint, and has been republished here with permission.

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