4:45 pm - Thursday January 17, 2019

Modi likely to reshuffle Cabinet by Monday; Parrikar may get defence

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NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to reshuffle his Cabinet by Monday amid strong possibility of Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar joining the Union Cabinet.

Along with Parrikar, Birendra Singh, Jat leader from Haryana who crossed over from Congress before the assembly polls, is likely to be accommodated in the Cabinet.

Hansraj Ahir, Lok Sabha member from Chandrapur in Maharashtra; Giriraj Singh, who won the poll from Nawada in Bihar; and Jayant Sinha, who successfully substituted his father, former finance minister Yashwant Sinha, in Jharkhand’s Hazaribagh constituency, are likely to find a place in the council of ministers. There are likely to be more names as sources had told TOI after the last round of assembly polls that the Cabinet reshuffle would be a “comprehensive” affair.

Besides them, West Bengal — which figures high on BJP president Amit Shah’s list of priorities — is also likely to find representation, though indications are that the leadership may look farther than the present crop of MPs from the state.

Sources said Parrikar may be given charge of defence should Modi decide to relieve finance minister Arun Jaitley of the additional charge of the sensitive ministry. Telecom, which Ravishankar Prasad holds simultaneously with law, can be a possible option for the Goa CM, should Modi decide to continue with Jaitley in defence.Parrikar met the PM and BJP chief Shah on Wednesday evening amid indications that he may not be excessively eager to shift to Delhi.

The reshuffle, the Modi government’s first, can happen either on Sunday or Monday, depending on the convenience of President Pranab Mukherjee. Sources said Modi, who will be in his Lok Sabha constituency of Varanasi on Friday and Saturday, will sound out Rashtrapati Bhavan soon.

The inclusion of Birendra Singh, grandson of legendary Jat leader Sir Chhotu Ram, will be a gesture towards Jats after the BJP picked a Punjabi, Manohar Lal Khattar, to head its maiden government in Haryana. Birendra’s wife Prem Lata defeated Om Prakash Chautala’s grandson Dushyant in Unchha Kalan constituency in the recent state polls.Birendra quit as general secretary of Congress and his Rajya Sabha seat to throw his lot with the BJP. He stands to get much more in compensation, considering that the Congress leadership mysteriously decided against appointing him as a member of Manmohan Singh’s Cabinet in 2013 virtually at the last minute.

Coming just ahead of Delhi polls, his elevation will be a message to Jats, who are an important part of the Capital’s electorate and had supported BJP in both the last assembly and Lok Sabha polls.

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