Modi to Revamp Cabinet to Revive Economy Before Key India Polls

Union Cabinet reshuffle likely this weekend

There is a buzz that Modi might relieve health minister JP Nadda from his cabinet role and ask him to focus on the upcoming Himachal Pradesh elections-where he could be projected as the party's chief ministerial candidate to take on Congress' Virbhadra Singh.

The cabinet reshuffle, sources say, "will not be a cosmetic exercise meant purely to fill the many vacant positions in Modi's council of ministers".

Five factors-vacancy in key ministries, mid-term appraisal of the performance of the ministers, forthcoming Assembly elections, gubernatorial assignments and realignment of NDA - have necessitated a cabinet reshuffle.

When the newly-minted PM Modi had given additional charge of defence to Jaitley for the first time in May 2014 and he ran the ministry for over five months, the prime minister had tasked him to prepare a blueprint for rapid modernisation of the armed forces and identifying procurement of new weapon systems from overseas. Arun Jaitley is in charge of two heavyweight ministries - finance and defence - while Harsh Vardhan, Smriti Irani and Narendra Singh Tomar are also handling additional charges. Besides, Uttar Pradesh is far too important a state electorally for the state party chief to juggle responsibilities. One of them is Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Minister Kalraj Mishra, who is likely to be sent to Maharashtra.

While Jaitley shedding the defence portfolio is a distinct possibility, Dr Harshavardhan, who is holding more than one portfolio, may also be relieved of one.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the inaugural function of the Rajasva Gyan Sangam - Annual Conference of Tax Administrators, in New Delhi on Friday.

Performing ministers like Piyush Goyal, Dharmendra Pradhan, Nirmala Sitharaman, Manoj Sinha and Jitendra Singh - all Ministers of State with independent charge - are likely to be elevated to Cabinet rank.


Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka will go to polls in 2018.

In the first meeting, also attended by another top BJP leader, a detailed presentation on outreach plans for the states headed for elections in the coming years was delivered.

The Cabinet reshuffle will be closely watched to gauge the message PM Modi wishes to send ahead of the 2019 General Elections.

If AIADMK eventually decides to join the government, a strong possibility, P Venugopal and V Maitreyan, may be the likely faces of the southern party in the Cabinet.

Nitish Kumar, who returned to the BJP-led alliance recently, may get two ministerial berths for the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) since he realised his love for an "old friend" after demonetisation.

But the seats are limited as the current strength of the council of ministers, including the prime minister, is 73 and the maximum number can not go beyond 81.

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