NEW DELHI (TIP): Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to carry out the first expansion of his council of ministers along with a bureaucratic shake-up in the next few weeks. Sources said an expansion of “considerable” scale could certainly happen before Parliament’s winter session begins late next month. Although the time-table for the session will be finalized only after the meeting of the Cabinet committee on parliamentary affairs scheduled for Monday, sources said the two Houses are expected to be convened in the third week of November.

A reconfiguration of the Cabinet appears to have become necessary for both administrative and political reasons. Many departments which require the full-scale attention of a minister have been handled so far as an “additional charge”. While the stopgap arrangement, which has continued for nearly five months, has worked satisfactorily, government managers feel that important ministries may require to be handled as “exclusive” charge as the government seeks to move into higher gear, and implement its policy agenda. Besides finance minister Arun Jaitley who has looked after defence, transport minister Nitin Gadkari has been handling the rural development portfolio since Gopinath Munde died in a car accident soon after the installation of the BJP government.

Ravi Shankar Prasad is dealing with both communications and law, while environment minister Prakash Javadekar has the additional charge of information and broadcasting. Along with the ministry recast, government seems to be finalizing its choice of key officials. Sources said the ball was set rolling on Thursday with the appointment of Rajiv Mehrishi as economic affairs secretary and Arvind Subramanian as chief economic advisor.

While the appointment of the new cabinet secretary may be a few weeks away, government is expected to finalize its choice for the new director of Intelligence Bureau and its recommendation for the next CBI chief in a week’s time. There are political drivers too for the impending ministerial restructuring. BJP leadership has been feeling the need to accommodate important communities which need to be represented on Team Modi before the party heads into the next round of state elections.

For instance, the party favours the inclusion of a Bhumihar, a community which solidly backed BJP in Bihar, in the Cabinet. Likewise, the party will like to include a Jat in the Cabinet in order to have the right social balance in Haryana where it may prefer a representative from another community for chief ministership in case it gets the opportunity to form its first-ever government in the state. A berth may fall vacant if the BJP leadership decides to put an end to the political anomaly of having Anant Geete as heavy industries minister when his party Shiv Sena is seen as having crossed the line in attacking the prime minister.


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