Reshuffle will make no difference, PM has all powers: Congress

Ahead of the Union Cabinet re-shuffle, Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya on Friday resigned from his Cabinet post. Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh could be asked to go.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who was also heading the Defence Ministry following the resignation of Manohar Parrikar, is likely to be relieved of his additional charge. He has enough on his plate already, as data late Thursday showed India's economic growth unexpectedly slumped to the lowest since 2014.

Speculations on who all would be part of PM Modi's team are on but going by the previous record, the prime minister may again surprise everyone with his decision. These include, Power Minister Piyush Goyal, Petroleum & Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, Commerce & Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Communications Minister Manoj Sinha and Minister- Development of North Eastern Region- Jitendra Singh. Sources said the PM is so miffed with both his activities and non-performance as minister that his rehabilitation in the BJP set-up may not be a smooth affair.

With the Nitish Kumar-led JD (U) also likely to join the government, its leaders RCP Singh, who is also JD (U)'s parliamentary party leader in the Rajya Sabha, and Santosh Kumar are the likely picks from the new NDA ally.

The other significant question is about Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu, whose offer to quit in the wake of recent train accidents had been put on hold pending the reshuffle.

The country has no full-time defence minister since Manohar Parrikar made a decision to leave for his home state Goa after the BJP formed government in the state in March.

Third, had the Doklam crisis not been resolved amicably as indeed it was on August 28, Modi would have definitely been under huge pressure to appoint a full-fledged defence minister, because in that event a part-time defence minister would have been politically incorrect.

This is expected to the last reshuffle ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

There are many vacancies in the Modi Government. It remains to be seen whether the two ministries would be merged to form a mega transport ministry on the lines of China as NITI Aayog had recommended in its presentation to PM Modi way back in 2014. The environment ministry was reassigned to Harsh Vardhan as an additional charge after the death of minister Anil Dave.

Ravi Shankar Prasad also holds the portfolios of Law & Justice as well as Electronics & Information Technology. Besides, several senior ministers may be sent on gubernatorial assignment as there are seven states without a governor at the moment.

With just 18 months away from 2019 general elections, this rejig is very important for the Modi government.

  • Sylvester Abbott