Union home minister Amit Shah’s meeting with groups of BJP MPs, which generated speculation about a cabinet expansion, was part of an ongoing feedback exercise on the work of the government, Covid situation and other issues, sources said. Over the last five days, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also held meetings with the minsters along with BJP chief JP Nadda.
Mr Shah had met MPs from Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat and some other states on Saturday and Sunday at his residence. Around 30 MPs and some ministers had visited him over the weekend.
Sources said political activities and physical meetings have resumed as the second wave of Covid has receded. The focus of the meetings this time is on the situation in the MPs’ constituencies, the handling of Covid and their performance during the pandemic, and the grievances of the people. Also any reshuffle in the ministry is usually preceded by appraisal and stock taking.
Over the last weeks, there has been talk of cabinet expansion with 28 berths remaining vacant. One was vacated by the death of Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan, who was in charge of the Food and Public Distribution portfolio.
At present, there are 21 Cabinet ministers, nine ministers of state with independent charge, and 23 ministers of state besides PM Modi.
An expansion is also expected to settle political tensions within the allies and giving due importance to states where the BJP came to power in assembly elections over the last two years.
From Bihar, Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal United is expecting a cabinet berth. Another seat in the Council of Ministers should go to Mr Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party.
Rewards are also expected in Madhya Pradesh, which came into BJP grasp after the churn in the Congress and changing of camp by Jyotiraditya Scindia with a chunk of his followers. Mr Scindia has already been given a Rajya Sabha seat, but there is speculation about a cabinet berth for him as well.
The exception could be Bengal, where the BJP, while failing to oust Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee from power, won nearly a third of the assembly seats. There is speculation that Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh might get a cabinet berth.
Sources said whenever the expansion takes place, Bengal will be given more representation to send a message that it is top on the BJP’s priority list.