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Modi's new-look team to take oath on Sunday

NEW DELHI: Fourteen new ministers are expected to be sworn in the much-awaited reshuffle of the Modi cabinet will take place on Sunday in which about half-a- dozen ministers are expected to make way for several new faces, including those of the BJP's allies.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will undertake the third and probably last major recasting of his council of ministers before the next Lok Sabha polls in 2019.
The changes in Team Modi are being made with an eye on key assembly elections in several states in the next few months and then the 2019 national election when PM Modi will seek a second term.
"A process has been set in motion for the swearing-in ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan at around 10 am on Sunday," a top government official said.
While four junior ministers - Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Sanjiv Kumar Balyan, Faggan Singh Kulaste and Mahendra Nath Pandey - had resigned on Thursday ahead of the rejig, Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya is also learnt to have resigned on Friday. The party had asked them to quit.
Three cabinet ministers, Uma Bharti Kalraj Mishra and Suresh Prabhu, have also offered to resign, said BJP sources amid speculations that there may be a few more exits.
Mishra met the prime minister on Friday and offered to quit, a source close to him said.
Bharti, who is the water resources minister, said only Shah or anyone on his behalf can speak on the issue.
Rajiv Pratap Rudy and Sanjeev Balyan both said they were told to resign by the party and they unquestioningly did so. "It's not my decision, it's the decision of the party, and I will follow (it)," Rudy said.
Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh could be asked to go, sources said.
Sadananda Gowda, who was demoted from Law to Statistics and Programme Implementation in the last reshuffle, could be spared the axe because of elections in his state Karnataka next year.
According to political analysts, Modi wants to counter the Opposition attack over issues like demonetisation, lower GDP growth and cow vigilantism by bringing in new faces who would deliver.
Evictions from the cabinet are based only on performance after a review, the sources said, with PM Modi clear he wants ministers who perform and work hard.
Shah had met Modi on Thursday and the two leaders are understood to have finalised the changes in the council of ministers.
Arun Jaitley, who currently holds the charge of two heavyweight portfolios -- finance and defence, may retain only one, sources said.
Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari, seen as one of the more capable ministers, can be given more responsibility.
BJP general secretary Bhupender Yadav, party's vice president Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, Prahlad Patel, Suresh Angadi, Satyapal Singh, Himanta Biswa Sarma, Anurag Thakur, Shobha Karandlaje, Maheish Girri and Prahlad Joshi are among the probable ministerial picks.
Power Minister Piyush Goyal, Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha are also tipped for an upgrade.
Senior ministers Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj met at the residence of home minister Rajnath Singh on Friday night.
With the Nitish Kumar-led JD(U) also likely to join the government, its leaders R C P Singh, who is its parliamentary party leader in the Rajya Sabha, and Santosh Kumar are the likely picks.
AIADMK leader Thambidurai had met Shah on Thursday, and he, besides party leaders P Venugopal and V Maitreyan, may be the likely representatives from the Tamil Nadu party if it decides to join the government.
There are also talks of a greater representation from existing allies like the TDP and the Shiv Sena.
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