News Leak Centre

Major reshuffle on cards, JDU to join Narendra Modi Cabinet

As the completion of Monsoon Session of Parliament nearing, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is gearing up to undertake massive reshuffle of his Cabinet till date. According to BJP top party sources, the possibility of rewarding Janata Dal (United) with representation in the Union Cabinet is a certainty following Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s dramatic move to leave the ‘mahagathbandhan’ with Lalu Prasad Yadav’s RJD and Congress, to join the BJP. The JD(U) becoming the part of Central Government will usher the regional party joining the NDA bandwagon for once and all. The strong grapevine suggests that Prime Minister Modi may drop some of the non-performers and introduce new faces in the Union Cabinet.

BJP insiders have confirmed that the Prime Minister and party President Amit Shah have had several rounds of discussions over the impending reshuffle of Cabinet, with an eye on the crucial 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Also, there have been rumours doing rounds that Amit Shah may join Modi Cabinet as Defence Minister. However, Shah has rejected the possibilities of resigning from the Party President and joining the government. Shah said he is happy being the party President and busy preparing the next general elections. The speculation of him being joining the government gained currency following his nomination to the Rajya Sabha. Amit Shah has already filed nomination papers for the Upper House elections from Gujarat. Being a five time MLA from his home state Gujarat, Amit Shah will be fighting to become Member of Parliament for the first time in his political career.

Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Jagat Prakash Nadda may be sent to his home State Himachal Pradesh to take charge of upcoming Assembly elections due in November-December this year. The party has made up its strategy to pitch him as Chief Ministerial candidate of Himachal Pradesh. Likewise, Anurag Thakur, Lok Sabha Member and son of former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal is certain to get a Ministerial berth in the Union Cabinet to sooth the aspirations of Dhumal clan.

Senior party leader from Uttar Pradesh and the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Minister at Centre Kalraj Mishra will be donning State Raj Bhavan as Governor soon as he has crossed the age of 75, the yardstick of working as Minister in Modi government. It is to be recalled that the Modi-Shah duo has decided to drop ministers from Union Cabinet on the ground of 75-year yardstick. Najma Heptullah, the then Minority Affairs Minister had to leave from Union Cabinet and become Governor of Manipur last year on a similar ground of crossing this threshold limit of age. The issue of age-threshold limit came into force in a big way when senior Party leaders like L K Advani, M M Joshi and others were made ‘margdarshak’ of a party.

Recently, there had been a few changes within PM Modi’s Cabinet, following which four major ministries are left without a dedicated minister. Former Union Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar, shifted to his home state Goa as the Chief Minister, after the assembly elections earlier this year. With the resignation of Parrikar from the Central cabinet, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley was given the additional responsibility of the Defence Ministry. In the absence of a dedicated minister for the Environment Ministry, Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan is further undertaking additional charges. Also, M Venkaiah Naidu being a strong contender for the Vice-Presidential election will leave two crucial ministries without a dedicated minister. With Venkaiah Naidu’s resignation from the Cabinet Smriti Irani was given additional charge of Information and Broadcast Ministry and Narendra Tomar took additional charge of Urban Development Ministry. Interestingly, both Smriti Irani and Narendra Tomar lost their respective portfolios during the last cabinet reshuffle by PM Modi.

By: Priyam Mukhopadhyay

Lalu Yadav’s ‘Putra Moh’ Is The Reason Behind His Biggest Political Defeat!

For weeks, Lalu Yadav struggled to find equilibrium between the competing pull of fatherhood and politics. He succumbed today to the former, impelling the end of the government that he was an essential part of in Bihar. Of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who has ended their alliance today, Lalu Yadav alleged betrayal. “He told me he would rather be destroyed than shake hands with the BJP,” he said, claiming that a lengthy phone conversation with Nitish Kumar last night did not hint in any way at the shape of things to come.

After a meeting with the 80 legislators of his party today, Lalu Yadav, seated next to wife and politician Rabri Devi, announced that their son, Tejashwi, would not quit as Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar despite being named in a corruption case filed earlier this month by the CBI. Devoid of his trademark one-liners, Lalu Yadav said that the long stretch of headlines about Tejashwi Yadav’s resignation being demanded by his boss was not correct.

Hours later, at about 7 pm, a resignation was indeed provided. Except it wasn’t Tejashwi Yadav’s. In an unexpected play, one that he said was “driven by his conscience”, Nitish Kumar met the Bihar Governor to inform him he was done with his job. As it currently stands. He did not rule out rebooting an alliance with the BJP, with whom he split acrimoniously in 2013. “Whatever is best for Bihar,” he said, when reporters asked him about his next step.

It was clear this morning that the political theatre of Bihar was heading into its final act. The assembly meets for its new session on Friday, and Nitish Kumar told his party he would not participate in it without ridding his government of corruption. Much of his considerable standing is mined from his image as “Suhasan Babu” (Governance Sir). He would not allow that to be diminished, he said.

At a separate meeting, Lalu Yadav told his lawmakers that they must circle their wagons around Tejashwi, who, he said, could be sacked. The tenor was of a worried father seeking to protect his son, said sources, and at complete odds with the swagger, he exhibited after the meeting, declaring to reporters, “Why would I destabilize Nitish Kumar’s government? I got him installed as Chief Minister.”

Then he cancelled plans to fly to Ranchi where he is due in court tomorrow for a different corruption case; he decided to drive instead, which gave him a few more hours in Patna as the fire spread.

Nitish Kumar after quitting told reporters that he had tried to make things work with the Yadavs. Both he and Lalu Yadav said that the resignation of Tejashwi Yadav was never sought; both agreed that what the Chief Minister was insistent on was a detailed defense to the legislators of their alliance, as well as to the public. “This is an obviously farzi (fake) case,” said Lalu Yadav, “I told him neither you nor your party are a police station to whom we have to offer a defense. We will make it to the appropriate authorities.”

The corruption case proved in some ways to be a gold rush for Nitish Kumar, who for months had appeared restless in his alliance with Lalu Yadav and the Congress as their third partner. In November, he was the lone opposition stalwart to enthusiastically back Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ban on high-denomination notes; last month, he defected from a front of 18 opposition parties to back the BJP’s candidate for President and not theirs. “He has colluded with the BJP,” said Lalu Yadav today, noting that Nitish Kumar has not rejected the possibility of a new arrangement with the BJP.

For Lalu Yadav, the break up comes at a time when his wife and children are confronting an array of criminal charges ranging from money-laundering to an illicit and benami (proxy-owned) real estate portfolio. Being part of a government would offer some insulation against tough investigations, he had calculated. The case against Tejashwi Yadav and him alleges that while he was union Railways Minister in the previous Congress-led government, he traded lucrative contracts that leased railways hotels to private firms for three acres in Patna that were eventually assigned to Tejashwi and his siblings. The land was being developed as Bihar’s biggest mall – by a lawmaker from his party – till the centre stopped the construction in June.

What is also rankling Lalu Yadav is that in 2015, when he tied up with Nitish Kumar and the Congress, it was his party that won the most seats in Bihar. He said that he would honour a pre-election commitment to installing Nitish Kumar as Chief Minister. The loyalty, he alleged today, has been squandered.

Why The ‘Mahagathbandhan’ Turns Out To Be A Literal ‘Gaanth’ For Bihar CM Nitish Kumar!

Lalu Yadav on Wednesday said that the government in Bihar – of which his party is a senior member – is not in danger of imploding. At a press conference held with wife, politician Rabri Devi, seated next to him, the 69-year-old said that Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has not sought the resignation of his son, Tejashwi Yadav, as the No 2 in the government. “I spoke to Nitish yesterday,” claimed Lalu Yadav. “Why would I destabilise him? I made him Chief Minister.” It was a pointed reminder that Lalu Yadav’s party has the most seats in the legislature.

An alliance forged out of immediate self-interest as opposed to shared, long-term goals allows only for fleeting moments of togetherness. The very same high-risk political strategising that drove Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar into the arms of Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad is now forcing him to hurriedly disentangle from the tight embrace. Slowly, but surely, Mr. Kumar is building pressure on Mr. Prasad’s son, Tejaswi Yadav, to step down as Deputy Chief Minister following CBI searches that point to him being a beneficiary of political corruption. Mr. Kumar would like two things: keep his government going with the help of the RJD, and, at the same time, protect his own image as a clean politician who will not compromise on the issue of corruption. But with the RJD adamant that Mr. Yadav will not quit as Minister, the Chief Minister might have to make up his mind on taking another political gamble. Mr. Kumar and his party, the Janata Dal (United), have remained in power in Bihar for nearly 12 years, initially in alliance with the BJP and later in alliance with the RJD. During that time, some of his political gambles have failed to pay off, as in the 2014 Lok Sabha election, when his decision to break the alliance with the BJP worked to the latter’s advantage. The JD(U) leader creates his own space in Bihar, beyond a Kurmi caste-base and on a distinct platform that views corruption and communalism as twin evils that have to be fought one at a time. At any point, one or the other is always a lesser evil.

Depending on whether the BJP or the RJD is his primary rival, communalism or corruption becomes his main focus. When Mr. Kumar broke away from the BJP in 2014, he was trying to do a Naveen Patnaik, ditch an ally and take over its political space. But unlike Mr. Patnaik in 2009, Mr. Kumar failed miserably, yielding substantial ground to the BJP in 2014. But if an appetite for political risk that makes enemies of friends is his weakness, a readiness to build new alliances with old foes is his strength.

But there are limits to the room for political manoeuvre available for Mr. Kumar. While a tough stand against the RJD on the issue of corruption might enhance his popularity, there is no certainty that he will survive as Chief Minister. Once bitten, twice shy, the BJP might not be all too keen to revive an alliance. A three-way contest will work to the advantage of the BJP, and the party would much rather look forward to a mid-term Assembly election than serve as a crutch for the JD(U). At present, there is little Mr. Kumar can do other than to hope that the RJD would oblige him by agreeing to the axing of Mr. Yadav. Mr. Kumar might risk leading another political churning in Bihar, but that certainly is not his first option in the current crisis. There is too much at stake, but sadly for him, the RJD knows he has more to lose than gain by standing on principle.