Modi set to reshuffle cabinet for a third time; to expand NDA

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will reshuffle his cabinet for a third tome tomorrow, expanding the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to include the JD(U) and by filling vacant positions and replacing some underperformers.

The third cabinet reshuffle since the BJP-led NDA government came to power in 2014 with a thumping victory, the latest rejig would also position the alliance for the 2019 general elections.

The announcement of the cabinet revamp is expected to be announced before Prime Minister Narendra Modi leaves for China to attend the BRICS summit.

Ahead of the reshuffle five union ministers have "voluntarily" resigned, giving Modi enough leeway to shuffle portfolios and induct new faces.

Rajiv Pratap Rudy, who was minister of state for skill development and entrepreneurship, is reported to have been asked to resign. He said it was a party decision and he will abide by it.

Union minister of state for human resource development Mahendra Nath Pandey has been appointed Uttar Pradesh BJP chief, thereby relieving him from his ministerial job following BJP's one-man-one-post principle.

An NDTV report said agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh has also given his resignation in the backdrop of the recent farmers agitation in Madhya Pradesh.

Kalraj Mishra, who held the portfolio of micro, small, and medium enterprises, turned 76 this year, and therefore may not continue in the cabinet as per Modi's `No 75 plus' policy.

Uma Bharati, who was in charge of water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation, but a non-performer, is another outgoing minister. Besides Bharti, her junior, Sanjiv Baliyan, an MP from Muzaffarnagar has put in his papers.

Railway minister Suresh Prabhu who has made great efforts to overhaul the working of the Railways by improving amenities and passenger experience, and improving rail infrastructure, however, net with less success and instead was made to answer for a series of accidents.

While the minister had offered to resign, Modi is expected to retain him in the cabinet by making him environment minister in place of former minister Dave and replace him by Nitin Gadkari.

Gadkari, who is holding road transport and highways portfolio, may be given additional charge of Railways as well.

BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav, who is credited with plotting the party's success in the North East, is tipped to get a berth. Madhav, who hails from Andhra Pradesh could now be used to swing votes for BJP in the south.

There is speculation that Amit Shah may be inducted in the cabinet as defence minister, an important portfolio currently being handled by Arun Jaitley ever since Manohar Parrikar was made Goa chief minister earlier this year.

Amidst speculation that AIADMK may join the NDA, party leader and Lok Sabha deputy speaker Thambidurai met BJP national president Amit Shah, looking for an alliance in exchange for a ministerial berth.

The Janata Dal (United) led by Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, which returned to the NDA-fold recently, may get two ministerial berths.

Ram Chandra Prasad Singh and, perhaps, Purnea MP Santosh Kushwaha are likely to be sworn in along with the BJP leaders.