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Stage set for Cabinet expansion today

By The Assam Tribune

NEW DELHI, Nov 8 � The stage is set for the first revamp of the Union Council of Ministers with about 15 likely inductions, including Manohar Parrikar and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi of the BJP at the level of Cabinet, besides a reshuffle of portfolios and elevation of some Ministers of State, reports PTI.

BJP allies TDP and Shiv Sena have also named YS Chowdhary and Anil Desai respectively, for induction in the Council of Ministers. Both the Rajya Sabha Members are expected to be made Ministers of State.

The swearing-in of the new ministers will take place at 1.30 pm tomorrow at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Before the swearing-in ceremony, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is hosting a breakfast for the newcomers into his ministry.

This will be the first reconstitution of the Ministry by Modi since coming to power in May. 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.

The 59-year-old Parrikar, who is tipped to be the new Defence Minister, resigned today as Goa Chief Minister to enable his shift to the Centre. The Defence portfolio is currently held as additional charge by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

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.

Among the new inductions are Vijay Sampla, a Dalit and a first-time Lok Sabha Member of BJP from Hoshiarpur in Punjab and possibly former RJD leader Ram Kripal Yadav, elected on BJP ticket from Patna.

The other names doing the rounds include JP 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.

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.

The 53-year-old Chowdhary, a Rajya Sabha Member of TDP, is an industrialist-turned-politician who is close to party chief Chandrababu Naidu.

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.

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