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Cabinet rejig: RPI’s Athawale on cloud nine, vows to work for Dalits


New Delhi : Expressing his delight over a Dalit getting representation in the Cabinet after Dr B.R. Ambedkar, Republican Party of India (RPI) leader Ramdas Athawale today thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for this opportunity and vowed to work for the backward sections of the society.
Talking to the media here after attending a meeting called by BJP president Amit Shah, Athawale confirmed that he would be taking oath tomorrow.

“I just talked to Amit Shah ji and he has given me the message of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He told me that I will be taking oath tomorrow. I am very happy that Prime Minster Modi and party president have given us this opportunity,” he said.

Athawale recalled that Dr Ambedkar was a minister in India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s Cabinet and said that the RPI didn’t get an opportunity after that.

“But now the RPI is getting a representation in the Cabinet. All the Dalits of the country will be very happy. The Prime Minister will decide on the portfolios tomorrow. I will work for the Dalits and backward classes of the society,” he added.

Dr Ambedkar, popularly known as Babasaheb, was Independent India’s first law minister and the principal architect of the Constitution of India.

With an eye on the politically crucial assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh scheduled next year, the much-awaited expansion of Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Cabinet will take place tomorrow.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the Centre is likely to induct several new faces from smaller and local parties.

Leaders from the Apna Dal, Shiv Sena and the RPI, which had announced its support to the BJP for the Mumbai civic polls due next year, will be included in the Cabinet this time.

The Prime Minister is likely to keep regional balances especially in view of the upcoming elections in key states like Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Punjab.

Sources state that Anil Desai- Shiv Sena, Ramdas Athawale- RPI and Vinay Sahastrabuddhe- BJP (Maharashtra); Anupriya Patel- (Apna Dal), Raghav Lakhanpal- BJP MP Saharanpur, Yogi Adityanath- BJP MP Gorakhpur (Uttar Pradesh); Arjun Ram Meghwal-BJP MP Bikaner (Rajasthan); Parsottambhai Rupala-BJP (Gujarat) and Ajay Tamta-BJP MP Almora (Uttarakhand) will find their place in the Cabinet this time.

S.S. Ahluwalia, Mahendra Nath Pandey and P.P. Chaudhary are also likely to be inducted in the Cabinet.

Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal, Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and Minister of State for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi are set to be promoted courtesy their splendid performances.

Besides, there are a few vacancies in the council which the Prime Minister is expected to fill tomorrow.

Sarbananda Sonowal, who held the Sports portfolio, took over as the Chief Minister of Assam post the BJP’s win in the northeastern state. A new Sports Minister is on the cards.

Another key element of tomorrow’s rejig would be the Prime Minister’s decision on the below 75 year age criteria for a membership of the council.

As a result of which, the fate of Minority Affairs Minister Najma Heptulla and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Kalraj Mishra will be decided on Tuesday.

This was, however, not the criteria for Cabinet berth during the former UPA regime as the Congress leadership preferred veterans rather than young blood.

Besides, the UPA regime had several faces from the southern states of the country unlike the NDA which has adequate representation from north India.

The top four portfolios-Home, Finance, External Affairs and Defence-are unlikely to be touched.

The Prime Minister has been holding consultations on the Cabinet reshuffle with senior party colleagues including BJP chief Amit Shah, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

A high-level meeting chaired by the BJP president is presently on at the party’s headquarters at 11, Ashoka Road, here to finalise the names.

The Cabinet reshuffle will take place a day before Prime Minister Modi leaves on a four-nation Africa tour beginning July 7.

The Prime Minister, who had reviewed the performance of various ministries indicating a reshuffle earlier on June 30, last expanded his Cabinet in November 2014.

In November 2014, the Council of Ministers was expanded by adding four Cabinet Ministers, three Ministers of State (Independent Charge) and 14 Ministers of State, increasing the total size of the ministry from 45 to 66 ministers.

The Cabinet was, however, leaner than the one headed by former prime minister Dr. Manmohan Singh during the UPA regime. The strength of Dr Singh-led UPA stood at 78 after its final reshuffle in October 2012.

According to the Constitution, the total number of ministers in the Council of Ministers must not exceed 15 percent of the total number of members of the Lok Sabha i.e. 82. (ANI)

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