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Cabinet reshuffle: Modi govt seeks to induct Dalit faces

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An expansion and reshuffle of the Modi government will take place on Tuesday with a Dalit tilt in the exercise possibly eyeing the Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh next year.

Prominent among the names doing the rounds for induction include Anupriya Patel, an OBC Lok Sabha member belonging to ally Apna Dal, and a number of BJP leaders, who met party chief Amit Shah on Monday.

The BJP names include S S Ahluwalia (LS), Vijay Goel (RS), P P Chaudhary, a Dalit MP from Bikaner in Rajasthan.

Sources said Ajay Tamta, a Dalit Lok Sabha member from Uttarakhand, which will go to the polls with Uttar Pradesh early next year, Purushottam Rupala—a Rajya Sabha member from Gujarat, Ramdas Athawale—an RPI MP from Maharashtra (RS), Mahendra Nath Pandey—an MP from UP, are among the likely inclusions. Krishan Raj, another BJP Dalit MP from UP, could also make the cut.

Some ministers can also be dropped, party sources said, adding that top ministers are unlikely to be disturbed.

Frank Noronha, principal spokesperson of the government, tweeted on Monday that the cabinet expansion will take place tomorrow at 11 a.m.

There has been talk of the expansion for the past several weeks, amid speculation that Prime Minister Narendra Modi could induct new faces from Uttar Pradesh with an eye on polls.

There is also a vacancy in the council of ministers after Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal became the chief minister of Assam.

This will be the second expansion of the Cabinet after Modi came to power in May 2014. The first expansion had occurred in November 2014.

There are currently 64 Union ministers, including the Prime Minister, and there can be a maximum of 82 of them under a constitutional bar.

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