More than half a dozen ministers are likely to be dropped in a major Cabinet reshuffle by the NDA government, as the ruling BJP prepares to go into the 2019 general elections, one and a half years from now.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will rejig his Cabinet before he leaves for China on Sunday to attend BRICS summit.
There is a buzz that Modi might relieve health minister JP Nadda from his cabinet role and ask him to focus on the upcoming Himachal Pradesh elections-where he could be projected as the party's chief ministerial candidate to take on Congress' Virbhadra Singh. A dozen new ministers are expected to join the government while a number of old hands - five ministers - have already put in their papers.
A reshuffle in the cabinet has been due for months now. The first reason behind the move is that there are several vacancies in key ministries.
Ananth Kumar holds the portfolios of Chemicals & Fertilisers and Parliamentary Affairs, while Dr Harshvardhan has been handling the additional charge of Forest & Environment after the death of Anil Dave, besides holding the Ministry of Science, Technology & Earth Sciences.
Arun Jaitley, who now holds the charge of two portfolios - Finance and Defence, may retain only one.
Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has already offered to quit. He later became the chief minister of the state.
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While Jaitley shedding the defence portfolio is a distinct possibility, Dr Harshavardhan, who is holding more than one portfolio, may also be relieved of one.
The assembly elections in Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh next year could also play a factor in the choice of inductions made by the BJP regime.
On Thursday, AIADMK leader and Lok Sabha deputy speaker Thambidurai met BJP national president Amit Shah, leading to speculations that the Tamil Nadu party may be looking for an alliance in exchange for a ministerial berth. He is also likely to be adjusted in one of the vacant Raj Bhavans as a Governor.
The new team could also have at least two representatives of BJP's new ally Janata Dal United of Bihar state Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
But the seats are limited as the current strength of the council of ministers, including the prime minister, is 73 and the maximum number can not go beyond 81.