The Narendra Modi government is all set for an expansion-cum-reshuffle on 2 September, media reports have said. A Cabinet reshuffle has been on the cards since Manohar Parrikar resigned as defence minister to become the Chief Minister of Goa. Finance minister Arun Jaitley has been holding additional charge of the defence ministry since then. While the view in the political leadership is that a Cabinet reshuffle is certainly required, the big question is about the timing. That date seems to have been set more by necessity than choice as Friday is the only time in next few days when President Ram Nath Kovind, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah will be in the national Capital. The major move which has kicked-off the process is the resignation of skills development minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy, and the appointment of Mahendra Nath Pandey, former minister of state (MoS) in the HRD ministry, as the state president of the BJP's Uttar Pradesh unit. Party sources also revealed that several other BJP leaders have already submitted their resignation. Some of the names that have come to Firstpost's notice include Giriraj Singh (MoS for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises) and Sanjeev Baliyan, MoS for agriculture and food processing.
Water resources minister Uma Bharati has offered to quit on health grounds, reports The Times of India. Kalraj Mishra, the minister for medium and small scale industries, is above 75 years of age (the informal age-limit for NDA ministers) and could be moved out to a Raj Bhavan. Reshuffle talks gained further ground after Jaitley on Thursday hinted that he would not continue to hold the defence portfolio for long. "At least not for very long," Jaitley said in response to questions on how long he would continue as Defence Minister. He has also been tasked as in-charge for Gujarat elections. Besides Jaitley, three other union ministers are holding additional charges of different ministries. Textiles minister Smriti Irani is holding additional charge of the information and broadcasting ministry portfolio, while rural development minister Narendra Tomar has additional charge of the urban development ministry after M Venkaiah Naidu resigned to contest the vice-presidential election. Union science and technology minister Harsh Vardhan is holding additional charge of the environment portfolio following the death of Anil Madhav Dave in May. Right now, the council of ministers has 72 ministers - 24 of cabinet rank, 12 MoS (independent charge) and 36 MoS, according to India Today. The total number of ministers in the council cannot exceed 81. This means Modi can add nine more ministers for now. However, while he will try to fill the vacant seats, he might still keep some unoccupied for now. After the Janata Dal (United) faction led by Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar joined the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance, some of its leaders too are expected to join the Union Cabinet. According to a report in The Times of India, JD(U) leaders Ram Chandra Prasad Singh and Purnea MP Santosh Kushwaha — could be sworn into the Cabinet. AIADMK leader and Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker M Thambi Durai met Shah on Thursday, leading to speculation that the party might become part of the Union Council of Minister. However, sources said the AIADMK's entry might be delayed till the problems in the party were resolved. Railway minister Suresh Prabhu has been under pressure after a spate of train derailments and could be shifted out. He is likely to take over as environment minister, a role he had performed earlier in under the Vajpayee government. The Times of India says that parliamentary affairs minister Ananth Kumar could take over the urban development ministry, relieving Narendra Singh Tomar from his additional charge. The last cabinet reshuffle took place in July 2016 in which Modi inducted 19 new faces and elevated MoS for Environment Prakash Javadekar to cabinet rank. Five junior ministers were also dropped.