Modi govt expansion, Union Cabinet expansion: As many as 20 new ministers could take oath when Prime Minister Narendra Modi expands the Council of Ministers. According to sources, the exercise could take place on July 7.
Meanwhile, PM Modi's meeting with BJP national president JP Nadda and top ministers has been cancelled. The meeting was scheduled for 5 pm today. The meeting was likely to be attended by Home Minister Amit Shah, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Railways Minister Piyush Goyal, Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad and others. At today's meeting, the Prime Minister was likely to discuss the performance of ministers and also proposals on future schemes. Earlier on June 20, the PM had held a similar meeting.
The Union Cabinet can have 81 members. At present, there are 53 ministers. There is a scope for adding 28 new faces. Sources said the swearing-in may happen as early as Wednesday. However, there was no official word on it.
The states which will go to the assembly polls early next year, including the all-important Uttar Pradesh, may figure high. West Bengal may also see its representation in the Union Council of Ministers go up, the sources said. It is believed that the BJP's allies like JD(U) and Apna Dal can also get representation.
Presently, Republican Party leader Ramdas Athawale, a junior minister, is the only ally in the government after parties like the Shiv Sena and the Shiromani Akali Dal severed ties with the BJP. Lok Janshakti Party founder Ram Vilas Paswan, a Cabinet minister, had died last year and all eyes are on whether his brother Pashupati Kumar Paras will be part of the expansion. Paras is engaged in a bitter battle with Paswan's son Chirag Paswan for the control of the party and has been recognised as the LJP leader in Lok Sabha after five of its six MPs lent their support to him.
BJP leaders Sarbananda Sonowal, the former Assam CM who made way for Himanta Biswa Sarma in the state, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Sushil Modi are seen as strong ministerial probables amid indications that some allies of the saffron party may also get berths. Others who could also join the government include Manoj Tiwari, Narayan Rane, RCP Singh, Dilip Ghosh, Santosh Kushwaha, Jamyang Tsering Namgyal, Locket Chatterjee, Zafar Islam and Anupriya Patel. Names of Bhupender Yadav, Anil Baluni, Sudhanshu Trivedi are doing the rounds while Ashwini Vaishnav and GVL Narasimha Rao are also being mentioned as probables.
This would be the first Cabinet expansion exercise of the Modi government that stormed to power in 2019 for the second term in a row. Earlier on Saturday and Sunday, PM Modi held meetings with senior BJP leaders Amit Shah and BL Santosh at his official residence, 7, Lok Kalyan Marg, in what is being seen as the final touches being given to the details of the expansion of the Union Cabinet. Santosh is the current national general secretary of BJP. He also worked as BJP's general secretary (organisation) for eight years in Karnataka. Shah, who holds the Home portfolio, served as the BJP president for six years between 2014 and 2020.