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Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Inside Track: Cabinet reshuffle on the cards?

Some believe that only middle-rank portfolios in the Cabinet will be switched since PM Modi wants certain politicians replaced by domain experts and those with technical know-how.

Written by Coomi Kapoor | Updated: July 5, 2020 3:34:49 pm
narendra modi, pm modi, jp nadda, rss Prime Minister Narendra Modi with BJP president J P Nadda. (Express photo by Prem Nath Pandey)

At a meeting last week in Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met senior RSS functionaries Dattatreya Hosabale and Krishna Gopal as well as BJP president J P Nadda and general secretary (organisation) B L Santhosh. However, none of Modi’s ministers were present. The meeting has fuelled speculation that a Cabinet reshuffle is on the cards by August. There are conflicting views as to the likely changes, if the move fructifies. Some believe that only middle-rank portfolios will be switched since the PM wants certain politicians replaced by domain experts and those with technical know-how. The entry of former Congress stalwart Jyotiraditya Scindia looks near certain. However, the buzz in some quarters is that even a senior ministerial portfolio could see a change.

Joint Operation

Indian Intelligence agencies believe that Pakistan and China are acting in tandem. Additional Pakistani troops have been moved closer to the LoC in the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir sector as well as near the Punjab and Jammu borders. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army, which was very active from May 1 to May 18, has massed troops at 18 locations near the LAC. In seven locations in Ladakh they had crossed the border, and of these, in five positions they moved 3 to 4 km inwards. The Chinese forward movement was accompanied by the building of huts, bunkers and roads. Since then there has been some pull-back of Chinese forces.

Bypassing Chief

General Bipin Rawat became the first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) in January this year. But since the post is newly created, the profile and duties of the CDS on a daily basis are still unclear. It is learnt that sometimes Chief of Army Staff General M M Naravane is taken aback when General Rawat talks directly to Army officers on defence matters, going over his head.

Waiting in Wings

Attorney General K K Venugopal, 89, was keen to step down after his three-year tenure ended earlier this year, due to his advanced age. But, he was persuaded to accept a year’s extension. The government is in talks with senior counsel Harish Salve, currently based in London, to eventually take over the AG’s post. Salve has impressed Prime Minister Modi after his legal victory on Kulbhushan Jadhav at the International Court of Justice. He charged a token fee of one rupee for the complex case. Salve has requested a grace period of eight months to decide on the offer, as he has some personal work to tie up first.

Cup and Lip Slip

The Congress believed it had sewn up the lone Rajya Sabha seat in Manipur, and would also succeed in toppling BJP Chief Minister N Biren Singh, since it had persuaded a few disgruntled former Congress MLAs who has switched to the BJP to return to its fold. But there is many a slip between the cup and the lip. Thanks to some deft moves by Assam Deputy Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, Biren Singh survived, at least temporarily. The Congress was so flat-footed that it sent Ajay Maken and Gaurav Gogoi as election observers for the Rajya Sabha poll without first finding out the quarantine rules in Manipur. When the observers landed in the state, they were sent into quarantine since they had failed to book return tickets for the same day. The Congress also did not reckon that blood is thicker than water. Though Congress MLA Imo Singh is from an old Congress family, he is the chief minister’s son-in-law and took full advantage of the relationship. Imo Singh jumped ship as did several other turncoats. The BJP may have won this round, but the question is how much longer Sarma will remain content to play second fiddle to CM Sarbananda Sonowal in Assam, considering he is the BJP’s master strategist for the entire Northeast.

Veteran’s Victory

When the 77-year-old Lingayat leader B S Yediyurappa was appointed Chief Minister of Karnataka it was presumed it was a stop-gap arrangement and the real power in the state would lie with BJP General Secretary (Organisation) B L Santhosh, who would eventually succeed him. But BSY’s masterful handling of the Covid pandemic in Karnataka has silenced his critics. Even though Bengaluru is the third largest city in India, its Covid-19 figures and death rate are lower than all other metropolises such as Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Ahmedabad. The experienced BSY enlisted the cooperation of the Opposition and the minorities, in the all-out war against the disease. The CM heeded the advice of medical experts and senior bureaucrats. Santhosh may have had his way in selecting non-entities as BJP candidates for the three Rajya Sabha seats, but BSY remains boss of Karnataka. An impressed Amit Shah consulted the Karnataka CM for advice on how to tackle the pandemic in the National Capital Region.

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