Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders have indicated the Narendra Modi government could see portfolios of some ministers reshuffled soon, and the Shiv Sena might get more representation. The BJP is also likely to announce filling of vacancies among its party functionaries by the end of the week.
Sources rejected the possibility of members of Parliament (MPs) joining from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). A party leader termed the BJP-PDP tie-up an alliance for government formation to give J&K a stable administration. Not a political alliance.
The reshuffle, apart from accommodating the Sena, will be a signal to ministers whose performance has been less than satisfactory or who have embarrassed the government with public statements. Sources said this could mean ‘non-performing’ ministers currently handling more than one portfolio being divested from some of their responsibilities. These portfolios could go to newcomers from the Sena or to those with a single portfolio and whose work has been satisfactory.
The Sena, with 18 members in the Lok Sabha and a coalition government it runs with the BJP in Maharashtra, has only one representative in the Cabinet. The Sena’s Anant Geete is minister for heavy industries and public enterprises.
The party could get two more slots in the council of ministers — a minister of state (MoS) and an MoS with independent charge. More representation for the Sena could give some solidity to the alliance in Maharashtra, likely to hit turbulence on seat sharing for the crucial BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation polls.
The BJP and Sena had ended their two-decade alliance to separately fight the Maharashtra Assembly elections, but buried the hatchet later with the Sena joining the minority Devendra Fadnavis government. Geete remained a minister at the Centre amid the turmoil between the two parties.
Prime Minister Modi embarks on a nine-day three-nation visit on Thursday. The PM will be in France from April 9 to 11, Germany from April 12 to 14 and visit Canada thereafter, before returning on April 17. The Lok Sabha resumes its Budget session on April 20. A reshuffle is rarely carried out mid-session.
This leaves the government only two days to effect the reshuffle before the session resumes or wait until Parliament is scheduled to adjourn on May 8.
In an unrelated development, the BJP on Wednesday distanced itself from minister of state for external affairs V K Singh’s tweets describing the media as “presstitutes”.
The former Army chief, currently overseeing evacuation of Indians from civil war-hit Yemen, had reportedly commented that the media was finding the evacuation operation less exciting than his going to the Pakistan High Commission here to attend the Pakistan Day celebrations.
When a section of the media reported his comments, Singh tweeted: “If simple remark that media finds Yemen less exciting than my attending Pak day is contorted out of shape then SOS God #Presstitutes”. Singh currently handles three portfolios. The Congress demanded that Singh be dismissed from the council of ministers.