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Why Modi is keen on 3rd & 'final' cabinet reshuffle before 2019 polls

Performers among MoS, including those with independent charges, are set to be promoted

Archis Mohan  |  New Delhi 

Narendra Modi

The long awaited of the government, its third and possibly its final before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, is set to take place by Sunday afternoon.

Laggards among the ministers are being dropped. Performers among ministers of state, including those with independent charges, are set to be promoted. Some of the leaders who have excelled in organisational work will be included in the council of ministers, and some ministers asked to return to party work.

New ally Janata Dal (United) will get representation. Existing allies, who need to be placated in the run up to the 2019 polls, could get more ministerial berths. There is still no clarity on whether AIADMK might be included in the cabinet.

However, the shape of the forthcoming expansion and reshuffle would highlight the failures of the Modi government on some of its key promises – job growth and skill development, improvements promised in the farm sector and Ganga rejuvenation.

In 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had promised 20 million jobs a year if voted to power. However, job growth has been abysmal, and significantly lower than the last three years of the UPA 2 government. The PM and chief have argued how the MUDRA Scheme has provided loans to over 80 million people, which in turn has provided employment in the informal sector.

But it's becoming increasingly apparent that the over two percent dip in GDP growth, the impact of demonetisation and inability of the industry to invest resulted in poor job growth. The Modi government’s plans to impart skills to a large section of the youths has fallen way short of its targets. Rajiv Pratap Rudy, despite his hard work in what was a newly carved out ministry in 2014, couldn’t meet the PM’s expectations as the minister of state (independent charge) for skill development and entrepreneurship. He has quit. The Medium, Small and Micro Enterprises (MSME) sector has performed poorly. Its minister Kalraj Mishra, who has also crossed the 75-year-old unwritten bar, is likely to be asked to quit and given a gubernatorial post.

The PM’s promise of Ganga rejuvenation, which is also associated with his Lok Sabha constituency Varanasi, has also failed to meet its objectives. Sources said Uma Bharti, who is also battling ill-health, and her junior Sanjeev Balyan, at the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation are likely to be sacked.

The unending farmer distress and the perceived non-performance of Agriculture Minister Radhan Mohan Singh could mean that he is relocated to another portfolio. That he is not being dropped is primarily because Singh enjoys a good rapport with the PM and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leadership.

If not the RSS, its affiliated outfits like the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh and Swadeshi Jagran Manch have flagged the issues facing the formal and informal sectors, particularly the damage wrought by demonetisation to the small and medium enterprises (SME) sector, lack of job growth and agrarian crisis. Some of the former RSS leaders have joined the recent farmer protests. In Maharashtra, Raju Shetti of Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatna, a ally and Lok Sabha member, has quit the Democratic Alliance over the issue.

According to sources, an excel sheet which rated the performance of each minister was submitted to Modi and Shah. Ministers were rated on parameters, which included if they were diligent in taking the 90-odd central government schemes to the people in their constituencies and that of other party Members of Parliament.

Party leaders who could be included in the council of ministers are Rajya Sabha members Bhupendra Yadav, Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, Om Mathur and Prahlad Singh Patel. Railway minister Suresh Prabhu could be relocated to the Ministry of Environment and Forests. Vacancies are also need to be filled at the Defence, Textile and Ministry of Urban Development. Some of the ministries could be merged.

But in addition to reinvigorating the council of ministers, chief Shah has also felt the need to strengthen the party’s outreach to the media in the run up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. There is a growing sense in the that the narrative, which has largely been under its control, is now slipping away and it needs experience of some of its leaders who were spokespersons in the run up to the 2014 polls and were later moved to ministries.

In 1963, senior Congress leader K Kamaraj proposed to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru that senior ministers in the government should quit and take up party work. Six union ministers, including Lal Bahadur Shastri, Jagjivan Ram and Morarji Desai, and six chief ministers, including Biju Patnaik, SK Patil and Kamaraj himself, quit.

It remains to be seen how many of the senior ministers quit for party work. Last heard, some of these ministers were busy running pillar to post to save their jobs.

First Published: Fri, September 01 2017. 12:08 IST