VP election done, focus shifts to Cabinet reshuffle
The election of M. Venkaiah Naidu as the 13th Vice-President of India has reinforced the domination of the political landscape by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). With this, the stage is now set for a major Cabinet reshuffle and party re-organisation to galvanize its supporters in the run up to next general election.
By current indications, the Cabinet reshuffle could take place within a week or two after the Parliament Monsoon session is adjourned sine die on August 11. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah have held discussions with members of Parliament from several States on the twin exercise of Cabinet reshuffle and party structure for 2019 general elections. Though no names have been firmed up, RSS points man Krishan Gopal and other interlocutors have been sounded on the move, which may include shifting of some Chief Ministers to the Cabinet.
The focus of the overall exercise is to smoothen all rough end within the broader Sangh Parivaar and make the party and the government battle ready for state elections due in next 18 months as well as the next general elections.
A sideshow is underway in Gujarat where Congress veteran and political adviser to the Congress party president Ahmed Patel is fighting a tough Rajya Sabha battle. It will be finally known tomorrow whether his effort at shifting the Congress legislators to Karnataka to prevent poaching by the BJP leadership was successful. The BJP’s decision to field former Congress leader Balwantsinh Rajput, a relation of Shankersinh Vaghela, who has often enjoyed a love-hate relationship with the BJP leadership, has now upped the ante for Patel.
However, the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo has shrewdly ensured that they would not face flak, whichever way the results of three Gujarat Rajya Sabha seats swing. The party’s two main candidates – BJP president Amit Shah and the Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Z. Irani—will romp home as the party has sufficient votes to be elected on the basis of first preferential votes. However, Rajput’s election depends on mass cross voting by Congress legislators.
A win for Rajput will be a huge setback for the Congress as it would undermine it in the ruin up to Assembly elections later this year. But the re-election of Patel will not in any way impact the Modi-Shah combine. It will only signal the irrelevance of Vaghela in Gujarat politics, for it would imply that he could not get his relative Rajput elected.
The National Democratic Alliance government headed by Modi has several ministers holding dual charge of the key ministries that may require deft handling in view of developments in the neighbourhood. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley holds the additional charge of defence ministry since Manohar Parrikar resigned to head the government in Goa; Irani has been given charge of the information and broadcasting ministry after Venkaiah Naidu quit the Cabinet to enter the fray for Vice-President and Harsh Vardhan has been also in charge of environment ministry after the death of Anil Madhav Dave. He is also the minister for science and technology.
In all, an interesting fortnight ahead for BJP watchers.