THE OVERWHELMING victory in Uttar Pradesh has given Prime Minister Narendra Modi unprecedented sway and space to bring about a major Cabinet reshuffle but top sources in the government said such a rejig is “unlikely” to happen in a hurry. Following the elections, and the shifting of Manohar Parrikar to Goa, the buzz has been all about the reshuffle and the selection of UP’s chief minister. While Home Minister Rajnath Singh has denied speculation that he was moving to UP, sources said the speed with which Finance Minister Arun Jaitley was asked to take additional charge of the Defence portfolio from Parrikar suggests that Modi will choose his time to effect a reshuffle.
“It is unlikely that a Cabinet reshuffle will be done soon,” said sources, indicating that the Prime Minister was keeping all cards close to his chest, for now. “The Cabinet reshuffle, whenever it happens, will be a major one as just 26 months are left in the government’s tenure. It will likely be done with an eye on the government’s economic performance, which will be more important for the Prime Minister in 2019 than the historic victory of 2017,” said sources.
As for speculation over UP, observers believe that “Rajnath Singh belongs to the old set up of UP BJP” while the mandate clearly is for a complete change. The counter argument, of course, is that the stature of Rajnath would make it easy for him to be acceptable to the party’s new MLAs, irrespective of caste and other issues. “Whoever can bring about the fast development of UP will be made the chief minister. The development card is the only criterion for the selection of chief minister. The Prime Minister had pledged before voters that the new leader of Lucknow has to perform fast and take UP forward,” said a party leader.
“Caste or community cannot be the criterion to select the chief minister as the mandate is to bring a new paradigm in UP politics,” the leader said. Sources said Modi and BJP president Amit Shah were giving the final touches to the cabinet in UP and Uttarakhand, where the Prime Minister had given personal guarantees of good governance.