A mega Cabinet expansion is on the cards of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government ahead of next year's crucial assembly polls in five Indian states and the 2024 general election.
Though there has been no official word on the possible Cabinet rejig, UNB has learnt that as many as 28 new faces, including a few from West Bengal, could be inducted into the Council of Ministers this month.
Modi's Cabinet currently has 53 Ministers. This would be the first Cabinet expansion since his nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept back to power in 2019 general election, decimating the opposition Congress.
In fact, the names of at least three BJP leaders from the eastern state of Bengal -- Jagannath Sarkar, Shantanu Thakur and N Pramanik -- are doing the rounds. Bengal shares its border with Bangladesh.
Modi's nationalist party lost badly to firebrand Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress in April-May's polls in Bengal. Mamata bucked anti-incumbency to pull off a landslide victory in the polls.
Bengal had witnessed the most high-profile contest in India's recently held state polls. While Mamata harped on being Bengal’s daughter, the BJP asked people to vote for "change and socio-economic development".
UNB has also learnt that former Congress lawmaker Jyotiraditya Scindia and former Chief Minister of northeastern state of Assam, Sarbananda Sonowal, are likely to be part of the Cabinet expansion.
Scindia, who served as a minister in the previous Congress-led federal government,
defected to the BJP last year and helped the saffron outfit reclaim its bastion in the central state of Madhya Pradesh.
Sonowal, on the other hand, made way for his deputy Himanta Biswa Sarma as Assam Chief Minister after the BJP swept to power for the second time in a row in the recently concluded assembly polls in the state.
Others who could be part of the Cabinet rejig are former deputy chief minister of the eastern Indian state of Bihar, Sushil Modi, and former chief minister of the western state of Maharashtra, Narayan Rane.
Nine serving Ministers in the Modi Cabinet, including Piyush Goyal and Smriti Irani, who currently hold additional portfolios, may have to relinquish the extra ministries to make way for the new faces, sources said.
"Five Indian states, including Uttar Pradesh in the north, are to go to polls next year. It's said that the party which wins Uttar Pradesh gets India. This is because the state has 80 parliamentary seats," said Rama Sharma, a Delhi-based political analyst.