India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi comes out of a meeting room to receive his Bhutanese counterpart Tshering Tobgay before the start of their bilateral meeting in New Delhi May 27. Photo: Reuters
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to undertake the first cabinet expansion next month when he inducts ministers to specifically deal with the portfolios of defence, law and justice, and environment and forests, reports The Times of India.
Though these portfolios are important and require full-time attention, they in the current scheme have been allotted as additional charges to finance minister Arun Jaitley, telecom minister Ravishankar Prasad and I&B minister Prakash Javadekar, respectively.
Jaitley made it plain on Tuesday that defence was an additional responsibility for him, and that he will shed it soon.
"MoD (ministry of defence) is only an additional charge till alternative arrangements are made with the full expansion of the council of ministers. This is a very important ministry and should hopefully get a ministerial head over the next few weeks to look full-time after it," the minister said within minutes of moving into his North Block office.
The expansion is expected to take place before the first week of July when the budget session of Parliament is likely to be scheduled, sources said.
The Modi government was sworn in on Monday with 45 ministers, including 23 with Cabinet rank, making it one of the leanest councils of ministers in recent times.
Although the candidates in the fray are not yet clear, the three ministries will stay within the BJP fold even as there is a clamour for more ministerial berths from allies such as Shiv Sena, which has received just one Cabinet berth in heavy industry and public enterprises minister Anant Geete.
The government is keen to induct the new ministers given the heavy work load in the three ministries — defence, law and environment — which are being handled by ministers with unrelated portfolios. In case of transport, steel and mines or power and coal, not only are the ministries smaller but even the work is related.