With vacancies in senior ministries, a cabinet reshuffle by Narendra Modi was long expected. And it has been hastened by recent political developments.
The Janata Dal (United) is set to join the BJP led National Democratic Alliance government at the centre after Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar split his alliance with RJD and Congress and joined hands with the BJP in Bihar.
This coupled with Rail Minister Suresh Prabhu’s offer to quit on moral ground after two massive train derailments in a week makes the case for cabinet reshuffle soon and according to sources it can happen anytime in the first week of September.
Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked Prabhu to wait, there are indications that his either his resignation will be accepted or his portfolio will be changed. Arun Jaitley, while reacting on Prabhu’s offer to resign, said taking accountability was a good system in government. Also, Prabhu’s previous party Shiv Sena has demanded that his resignation be accepted.
There is another speculation doing rounds that AIADMK may also join the NDA in the next round of cabinet reshuffle but it will be premature to say anything about it given the uncertainly hovering around the fate of E Palaniswami government.
After series of ups and downs, both factions of the AIADMK, headed by Palaniswami and O Panneerselvam, finally merged on August 21 but the party has been marred by Sasikala and her brother TTV Dinakaran. 19 MLAs loyal to them have revolted and they have written to the Governor demanding a trust vote, a demand echoed by Congress and the DMK.
With the move by Sasikala camp MLAs, Palaniswami government has lost its majority in the assembly. Its effective strength has come down to 115 from 134 while the majority mark in the 233 member strong assembly is 117. One seat is lying vacant after J Jayalalithaa’s death.
But whenever the cabinet reshuffle happens, all eyes will be on who all are given the responsibility to handle four vacant key ministries the additional charge of which are being held by other ministers.
MINISTRY OF DEFENCE: Arun Jaitley, Minister for Finance and Corporate Affairs, was given the additional charge of the Ministry of Defence when Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar quit in March 2017 to take oath as Goa chief minister.
MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT, FOREST AND CLIMATE CHANGE: Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Minister for Science and Technology and Earth Sciences, was given charge of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change after Anil Madhav Dave passed away in May 2017.
MINISTRY OF INFORMATION & BROADCASTING: The ministry fell vacant after Venkaiah Naidu resigned post his nomination as the Vice-Presidential nominee of the NDA last month and its additional charge was given to Textile Minister Smriti Irani.
MINISTRY OF URBAN DEVELOPMENT AND HOUSING AND POVERTY ALLEVIATION: This portfolio, too, was with Venkaiah Naidu and fell vacant after his resignation. Its additional charge was given to Rural Development Minister Narendra Singh Tomar.