Uma Bharti and Rajiv Pratap Rudy were among five union ministers who resigned on Friday evening in what is seen to signal a mega cabinet reshuffle, likely on Saturday. Sources said more resignations are expected as ministers make way for new faces, including those from new BJP allies.
The others who have resigned are Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh, Minister of State for Water Resources Sanjeev Balyan and Minister of State for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Giriraj Singh. Kalraj Mishra, Cabinet Minister of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, too is expected to resign.
Some of those who have resigned, like Skill Development minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy, are likely to be given organisational roles in the BJP, sources said, ahead of the 2019 national election when Prime Minister Narendra Modi will seek a second term.
Others could be losing their jobs over performance. Radha Mohan Singh has faced tremendous flak over the death of protesting farmers in Madhya Pradesh’s Mandsaur, where the BJP lost a by-election to the Congress recently.
Today’s resignations came hours after BJP chief Amit Shah met senior ministers at his Delhi residence. Mr Shah later met PM Modi.
Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti has reportedly offered to resign on health grounds. Kalraj Mishra, who met Mr Shah today, is well over 75, the age limit in the BJP for ministers.
The possibly last major reshuffle before the national election is expected before PM Modi leaves on Sunday for a BRICS summit in China. President Ram Nath Kovind will be away in Tirupati tomorrow.
Earlier in the day, minister of state Mahendra Nath Pandey was appointed the BJP’s Uttar Pradesh chief, creating one more vacancy in the Council of Ministers.
Among the new faces expected to join PM Modi’s team are at least two members of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal United, the BJP’s latest ally. If Tamil Nadu’s ruling party AIADMK is inducted as a new partner, its Thambi Durai and K Venugopal are being seen as likely ministers.
The ruling BJP may also accommodate leaders like Bhupendra Yadav, who is in-charge of Gujarat, with an eye on elections in the state later this year. Prahlad Patel, a BJP leader from Madhya Pradesh, where elections will be held next year, could be inducted as a minister, sources said.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who holds additional charge of Defence, is expected to shed one of the two key ministries. Responding to a reporter’s question today on how long he would continue as Defence Minister, he said, chuckling, “At least I hope not very long.”
Many expect a change in the Railways Ministry after a series of accidents. For the first time after two derailments within four days, Minister Suresh Prabhu met PM Modi and indicated that he had offered to quit but was “asked to wait”.
Two key ministries opened up and were re-allotted after M Venkaiah Naidu was named Vice President of India. The Environment ministry was also reassigned to Harsh Vardhan as additional charge after the death of minister Anil Dave.