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Union Cabinet expansion likely tomorrow evening; JD(U) ‘confirms’ berth in Modi ministry

Amid strong buzz about an impending Union Cabinet reshuffle, there are signs that the expansion could happen as early as tomorrow evening (July 7).

Many of the probable faces, expected to be made part of the Narendra Modi Council of Ministers, have started to arrive in Delhi.

Former Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal has already arrived in Delhi from Guwahati, while BJP leader Jyotiraditya M Scindia today offered prayers at Ujjain’s Mahakal Temple in Madhya Pradesh before departing for the national capital. Scindia later landed in Delhi in the evening.

BJP leader Narayan Rane, from Maharashtra, kept reporters guessing on him being among the probable Cabinet inductees. “I’m an MP, so I’ve to come here. We come here ahead of Parliament session. If anything important happens, we’ll tell you. Can we hide anything from you?” Rane told reporters in Delhi. “Let it get confirmed. Not received a call,” he added.

Meanwhile, BJP ally in Bihar the Janata Dal (United) confirmed it will become a part of the Union Cabinet in the expansion due soon.

JD(U) Bihar president Umesh Kushwah said: “Party’s national president (RCP Singh) will take the final decision (on who will be made ministers). All I can say right now is that we (Janata Dal-United) are going to be involved (in the proposed expansion of the Union Cabinet).”

Minutes later, RCP Singh approved Kushwah’s statement: “Whatever our political leader has said is true. You will see (future developments) soon.” “Is there even any doubt?” he said when asked by reporters if everything regarding the reshuffle has been finalised.

Asked about the JD(U) getting a berth in the Union Cabinet, Bihar CM and party leader Nitish Kumar had earlier told reporters: “I have no knowledge about any formula but our party’s national president has the authorisation for this. He is the authorised person. Whatever has to be done through discussions, it will be done accordingly.”

Union Cabinet expansion: Leading candidates

Top names expected to be made part of the expanded Union Cabinet include Sarbananda Sonowal, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Sushil Modi. There is a strong talk of several NDA allies also being accommodated in the Union Cabinet ahead of key state elections next year, including in the all-important Uttar Pradesh.

While West Bengal is likely to have a representative in the Union Cabinet, allies like JD(U) and Apna Dal may also get berths.

Sources say Lok Janshakti Party founder Ram Vilas Paswan’s brother Pashupati Kumar Paras, responsible for the recent ‘coup’ in the party, may also get a seat in the Union Cabinet. Paras and Paswan’s son Chirag Paswan are engaged in a public tussle to claim control of the party. Paras became the LJP leader in Lok Sabha after five of the party’s six MPs recognised him as their leader.

On Sunday, PM Modi had met Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP national general secretary (organisation) BL Santhosh for marathon meetings to give final touches to the Cabinet expansion exercise, said reports.

This evening, PM Modi was supposed to hold talks with his top ministers and BJP president JP Nadda but that meeting has now been reportedly cancelled. However, Nadda held a meeting with BL Santhosh ahead of the expected Union Cabinet reshuffle.

If the Union Cabinet expansion does take place, it will be for the first time since coming to power for the second consecutive time in May 2019 that PM Modi will include new faces in his Council of Ministers.

At present, the Union Council of Ministers has 53 members besides PM Modi. The Council of Ministers can have a maximum of 81 members.

It may be noted that at present, the Union Cabinet has only a single ally in Republican Party chief Ramdas Athawale. This after parties like the Shiv Sena and the Shiromani Akali Dal quit the NDA and severed ties with the ruling BJP.

Over the past few weeks, PM Modi has been meeting his ministers as well as senior BJP leaders including chief Nadda giving ample hints that the Cabinet expansion exercise was due soon.

 

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