By Navneet Mishra
New Delhi, Sep 27 (IANS) After announcement of a new team to run the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), there is eager anticipation of an upcoming Cabinet expansion in the Narendra Modi-led NDA government.
Sources believe that after clearing the role of the party leaders, it has become easier to decide on inclusion of probable faces in the government. While some leaders say that the Cabinet expansion will happen soon, other leaders believe it would take place after Bihar Assembly polls in October-November.
In case, the Cabinet is expanded post the Bihar polls, it would happen after November 10.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was sworn-in for a second term on May 30, 2019. Sixteen months have passed since then but the Cabinet has not been expanded yet.
However in his first stint, Modi had expanded his Cabinet on November — just six months after forming the government in May 2014.
After the announcement of the new 70-member BJP team on Saturday, speculations of the Cabinet expansion have intensified.
“After the resignation of two ministers, and the death of one minister, a total of three posts have become vacant within a year. In such a situation, the expansion of the Council of Ministers is necessary,” a BJP leader, who did not want to be identified, told IANS.
“It cannot be said clearly as of now when the Cabinet would be extended but would happen soon,” the party leader added.
Those outside the organisation may get a chance.
Many big faces have been left out of the party organisation. They include Vinay Sahastrabuddhe, who was national Vice President, and Anil Jain, Saroj Pandey, Ram Madhav, and P. Muralidhar Rao, all national General Secretaries.
There is speculation that party leaders, who are Rajya Sabha members, may get a place in the Modi-led Cabinet in the upcoming expansion.
Since Sahastrabuddhe, Jain and Pandey are Rajya Sabha members, it could be easier for the party to accommodate them in the Cabinet.
However, Ram Madhav and Rao are not MPs, and they can be made ministers only if the party arranges Rajya Sabha seats for them.
A total of 10 Rajya Sabha seats are getting vacant in Uttar Pradesh in November.
Since the formation of the Modi government for the second time in May 2019, three ministerial positions are lying vacant.
Shiv Sena leader Arvind Sawant resigned from the post of Heavy Industries Minister in the Modi government after his party quit the NDA in November 2019.
Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur, of the Akali Dal, resigned on September 17, opposing the farm Bills. Her party has also left the NDA.
Minister of State for Railways Suresh Angadi died of Covid-19 on September 23.
The Central government can have a maximum of 81 ministers, which is the 15 per cent of the total strength of the Lok Sabha.
However, since Prime Minister Modi insists on “Minimum Government, Maximum Governance”, he worked with a team of 70 ministers in his first term.
On May 30, 2019, Modi was sworn in for a second term along with 57 ministers – 24 Cabinet Ministers, nine Ministers of State (Independent Charge) and 24 Ministers of State.
Currently, there are 54 ministers in the the council of ministers, and while there can be 27 more ministers, sources indicate that Modi would like to keep a maximum of 70 ministers in his Cabinet, the same number as during his first term.
(Navneet Mishra can be contacted at email@example.com)