24 slots vacant with ministers holding multiple portfolios
The long anticipated reshuffle and expansion of the Union Cabinet is likely to take place this week, according to highly placed sources. The expansion, with 24 slots to fill and multiple ministries held by a single ministers to be decoupled, has been talked about for a while now, with the possibility of it happening either on July 7 or 9 now being talked about with more certainty.
Several shoo-ins in the Union Cabinet — a leader from north-central India who is owed a ministerial berth as a political quid pro quo and a leader from eastern India — have both cancelled their travel plans and have been asked to be in Delhi on those dates.
Sources in the BJP said the Cabinet expansion will also affect the organisational appointments in the party as a senior general secretary of the BJP is expected to get a Cabinet berth.
Government sources were largely mum but did say that inductions will be taking into account needs of States going to the polls in next year, including from Uttar Pradesh, where NDA ally Anupriya Patel of the Apna Dal is likely to be inducted.
“Multiple ministries are currently being handled by one minister or other — there are four such clusters of ministries that need to be redistributed and the Cabinet reshuffle exercise is likely to address that issue,” said a source.
According to the Constitution, the number of ministers in the Union council of ministers cannot exceed more than 15% of total Lok Sabha MPs. This puts the number of ministerial slots empty as of now at 24 — a sizeable number. Whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi will fill the slots in one go or just restrict it to some necessary inclusions like that of Jyotiraditya Scindia who joined the BJP last year and helped topple the Kamal Nath-led Madhya Pradesh government, is yet to be seen.
As of now Mr Scindia and former Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal, who gracefully gave way to Himanta Biswa Sarma after his government was voted back to power in Assam seem to be the strongest candidates in the list of inclusions.
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