Prime Minister Narendra Modi is reviewing the performance of select ministries, especially in the second wave of Covid, in a series of meetings beginning Thursday, sources say amid reports of a possible cabinet expansion.
A meeting this evening between the BJP’s Big Three — PM Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and party chief JP Nadda – signals big changes ahead based on the assessment of how the ministers performed. Some ministers were also present at today’s meeting.
There is also talk of a major social scheme to be announced in the next few days as the party preps for important elections next year, including in Uttar Pradesh.
The Prime Minister held a similar meeting for well over five hours yesterday at his 7 Lok Kalyan Marg home with seven ministries and assessed the work done by them during the April-May Covid crisis, when the scale of virus cases and deaths were seen to have caught the government unprepared. Dharmendra Pradhan, Prakash Javadekar and Hardeep Puri were among the Union Ministers he met.
Sources said it is an annual exercise that usually takes place before the anniversary of the Modi government but was delayed this time due to the pandemic.
Since it is a performance review, it has fueled speculation of a cabinet expansion, said to be long overdue. There are around half a dozen ministers who hold more than one ministry.
The Prime Minister can have up to 79 ministers, which means there are more than two dozen vacancies in the Union cabinet.
The review meeting comes days after the Prime Minister announced that the centre would take back control of vaccination from states and provide vaccines free of charge to all above 18 from June 21.
Yesterday’s meeting, sources say, began at 5 pm and continued till 10 in the night. Mr Nadda was also present.
The ministries made brief presentations on various decisions taken by them, sources in the government said.
Under review were Petroleum Ministry, Steel Ministry, Ministry of Jal Shakti, Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Ministry of Civil Aviation, Ministry of Heavy Industries and the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate change.
Usually, the Council of Ministers meets after the Cabinet meeting every month. But this time, the meeting was held independently.
The meetings come on the back of withering criticism against PM Modi’s government for the handling of India’s deadly second virus wave and slow vaccine roll-out.