Reshuffle on cards: 'Eidi' or 'Qurbani'
While expansion-cum-reshuffle of the Union Council of Ministers seems to be an 'Eidi' (a gift on Eid) for the new NDA partners, JD(U) and AIADMK, for many present ministers of the Narendra Modi Cabinet – it could be akin to the day of Qurbani (sacrifice). Suresh Prabhu's exit from the Ministry of Railways and a new face atop the Defence Ministry is very much expected. While Minister for Skill Development Rajiv Pratap Rudy and Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Faggan Singh Kulaste have tendered their resignation, several other resignations like those of Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti, her Minister for States Sanjeev Balyan, MSME Minister Kalraj Mishra, his Minister for States Giriraj Singh and Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh, the newly appointed chief of the Uttar Pradesh unit of the BJP and Minister of State for Human Resource Development, Mahendra Pandey, Birendra Singh and Sudarshan Bhagat are also on the list of those asked to submit their resignation.
On the other hand, BJP general secretary Bhupendra Yadav, and Karnataka leaders Prahlad Joshi and Suresh Angadi are likely to be given Cabinet berths. As Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's JD(U) is now the BJP's partner in Bihar, Kumar's close confidantes RCP Singh and Santosh Kumar are also expected to join the government. Though Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha and AIADMK MP M Thambidurai met BJP president Amit Shah on Thursday, it is yet to be clear whether the AIADMK will officially join the government. After meeting several ministers in connection with the Cabinet reshuffle, Shah also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi at his residence. The PM is likely to incorporate several infrastructure Ministries under one umbrella. Some senior party leaders are also expected to be relocated at different Raj Bhawans of the states.
At present, Modi's Cabinet has some clear vacancies: While Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has additional charge of Defence Ministry, his Science and Technology counterpart Harshvardhan has the additional charge of Forest and Environment. Similarly, rural development and Panchayati Raj minister Narendra Singh Tomar and Textile Minister Smriti Irani had the additional charge of Urban Affairs and the Information and Broadcasting Ministry respectively. Since BJP has limited 'men-in-the-action' league, speculations are high in the power corridor about who would be Modi's choice for Defence Ministry. As Prabhu's exit from the railways is almost certain, it is indeed a million-dollar question that who would be a 'popular' face to maintain Modi's development agenda on the tracks. While Piyush Goyal, MoS with Independent Charge for Power, Coal, New and Renewable Energy, is likely to be elevated, the Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar may be the choice for urban development, which was handed over to Narendra Singh Tomar after Venkaiah Naidu's appointment as the Vice President of India. Finance and Defence Minister Arun Jaitley is likely to give up one of his two portfolios – most likely the defence. Septuagenarian MSME Minister Kalraj Mishra may also resign on seniority grounds. Clubbing all the means of transportation, Nitin Gadkari could be the all-in command for Railways, Aviation, and Roadways. If it happens, the Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapati Raju will also have to put in his papers. When Minister for Railways Suresh Prabhu had offered to resign from his position after a series of rail mishaps in August, the PM – in his tweet - had asked him to 'wait'.
This reshuffle could carve a way out for Prabhu. Nirmala Sitharaman is also likely to resign as the MoS for Finance and Corporate Affairs as BJP needs her as its spokesperson. Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Radha Mohan Singh could also lose his post as he had faced a lot of criticism over the death of protesting farmers in Madhya Pradesh's Mandsaur, where the BJP faced a humiliating defeat at the hands of Congress in the recently held by-elections. Though only PM Modi and BJP president Amit Shah are privy to the knowledge of who will get the 'Eidi' or the 'Qurbani', it is certain that they will be given what they deserve. The two top leaders have already scrutinised the information about the ministers' personal conduct, within the office and outside. Not to forget, Modi had recently warned his ministers to refrain from the growing tendency of staying in five-star hotels during their official tours while availing other perks of power extended to them by the PSUs.