New Delhi: The strained BJP-Shiv Sena ties dipped on Saturday night on the eve of the Cabinet expansion and reshuffle of the Union Council of Ministers, when 20 new faces are likely to be inducted, bringing in BJP leaders Manohar Parrikar, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Rajiv Pratap Rudy and Bandaru Dattatreya while elevating a few. While a TDP representative is sure to be inducted, last-minute problems appeared to have cropped up over a Shiv Sena member joining the ministry in view of unresolved issues in Maharashtra.
Sena representative and union minister Anant Geete was tonight called by his party chief Uddhav Thackeray for consultation amid indications that no Sena representative may be added into the government tomorrow. Sena sources said Prime Minister Narendra Modi refused to meet Geete. Five months after taking over, Modi is undertaking an expansion and reshuffle of his Cabinet in which Parrikar appears all set to get Defence portfolio which is now held as an additional charge by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. The swearing-in of the new ministers will take place at 1.30 PM tomorrow at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Before the swearing-in ceremony, Modi is hosting a breakfast for the newcomers. The current strength of the Council of Ministers is 45 -- 23 of Cabinet rank, including the Prime Minister, and 22 Ministers of State. Of the 22 MoS, 10 hold Independent Charge. Among the new inductions are Babul Supriyo, BJP MP from West Bengal, Vijay Sampla, a dalit and a first time Lok Sabha member of the party from Hoshiarpur in Punjab and possibly former RJD leader Ram Kripal Yadav, elected on BJP ticket from Patna.
An IIT-M alumnus, Parrikar will be the first Cabinet Minister from Goa and shares a good rapport with the Prime Minister.
Naqvi (57), a prominent Muslim face of the BJP, returns to the Union Council of Ministers 15 years after his stint as MoS Information and Broadcasting in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. A member of Rajya Sabha from Uttar Pradesh, he is currently the Vice President of BJP. Rudy, a former Civil Aviation Minister, is also expected to make a comeback into the government after 10 years. Similarly Dattatreya, a four-time MP from Secunderabad and a minister in the Vajpayee government, is also tipped to join the ministry, representing Telangana state. Neighbouring Andhra Pradesh will get further representation through TDP nominee Y S Chowdary, industrialist-turned-politician, who is likely to be inducted as a Minister of State. On the Sena front, reports indicated that Rajya Sabha member Anil Desai could be inducted. I could not meet him, Geete said, adding that no final decision has been taken on fresh induction from the party into the Union government. Sena chief Thackeray has already demanded that his party should be inducted into the Devendra Fadanvis government before it faces the trust vote. The other names doing the rounds include J P Nadda, BJP general secretary, Ajay Tamta from Uttarakhand, Jayant Sinha, son of former Union minister Yashwant Sinha from Jharkhand, Jat leader from Haryana Birender Singh, Bhumiar leader from Bihar Giriraj Singh, Col Sonaram Chaudhary and Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, both of Rajasthan, Hansraj Ahir from Maharashtra and Ramesh Bais from Chhattisgarh and first-time MP from Rajkot constituency Mohan Kundariya.
There is speculation that a couple of ministers could be dropped while a few could be elevated to the Cabinet rank.
Former union minister Suresh Prabhu, who is the Prime Minister's sherpa for G-20 Summit, is widely being speculated as the head of a new body that will replace the Planning Commission. In that capacity, he may get Cabinet rank status.
More than six ministers are currently holding more than one portfolio. Road Transport and Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari also holds the charge of Rural Development Ministry, while Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad also has the charge of IT and Communications Ministry. Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar has I&B ministry as an additional charge while Power Minister Piyush Goyal also looks after Coal and Mines. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu also has Urban Development while Nirmala Sitharaman, MoS in Finance Ministry, also has independent charge of Commerce.