PM Narendra Modi likely to go for Cabinet expansion

NEW DELHI: The elevation of M Venkaiah Naidu as vice-president will create another vacancy in the Union Council of Ministers that could prompt Prime Minister Narendra Modi to expand it soon after the monsoon session of Parliament in August.

An expansion has been due for some time. Manohar Parrikar quit as defence minister to become Goa CM in April. Finance minister Arun Jaitley was given additional charge of the defence ministry. Though Jaitley has handled both ministries well, many feel that this is an interim arrangement as it is virtually impossible for a minister to handle two big ministries with so much workload.

The death of environment minister Anil Dave led to the PM giving science and technology minister Harsh Vardhan additional charge of the ministry. Naidu heads the I&B ministry and urban development, housing and urban poverty alleviation ministry.

Minister for micro, small and medium enterprises Kalraj Mishra has crossed the 75 year cut-off mark that had been maintained when Modi assumed office in 2014. He was reportedly not removed keeping the Uttar Pradesh elections in mind but may now be made a governor with over six vacant Raj Bhavans as of now.

There is also speculation that if BJP comes to power in Himachal Pradesh, where assembly polls are due in December, health minister JP Nadda may be sent as chief minister, though Anurag Thakur is also said to be in the race. In case that happens, another Cabinet post will fall vacant.

Modi is said to choose his ministers and portfolios after much rigour and homework. While regional and caste balance are among criteria, the candidates should also have a noncontroversial track record. In the appointment of most Cabinet ministers, competence was high on the list for the prime minister, officials insist.

Sources in the government said there is a lot of analysis that went into the reshuffle that happened last July. The process that inducted 19 new ministers went through two months and several MPs were…

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