Intense lobbying has begun in Delhi with speculation running rife about a possible Union Cabinet reshuffle. Sources here said that President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s itineraries and an auspicious day are being worked out to choose a date for the reshuffle, possibly after June 18, when President Pranab Mukherjee returns from his three-nation Africa tour. If not on June 19 or 20, another possibility was after the PM returns from the Shanghai Cooperation Summit in Tashkent scheduled June 23-24. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Sources had said that the reshuffle was on the cards with just around a month to go for the monsoon session of Parliament. They also said the current reshuffle will focus on Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Punjab with around eight new faces expected from these three states. Even as nobody is privy to PM’s plans, highly-placed sources said discussions so far within the corridors of power suggest that portfolios of those in the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) that involves home, defence, external affairs and finance will remain unchanged. Also it is believed that there were unlikely to be changes in portfolios of other top ministers such as Nitin Gadkare, Piyush Goel, Dharmendra Pradhan, Suresh Prabhu, Nirmala Sitharaman and Smirti Irani. The PM is understood to be disinclined to change Sushma Swaraj from the external affairs ministry, despite her deteriorating health. There is a possibility that she could have another minister of state to lighten her burden in the job which entails frequent travelling. There is speculation that a couple of ministers from Bihar will be dropped while some junior ministers may be rewarded cabinet status. Modi has been meeting junior ministers frequently to gauge their performance. While Goa is also slated for assembly polls by February-March 2017, defence minister Manohar Parrikar is unlikely to be sent back to the state.There are two vacancies that need to be filled. The first is at the ministry of sports and youth affairs after Sarbananda Sonowal has become the Assam chief minister. Similarly, junior minister in the ministry of social justice and empowerment Vijay Sampla has been sent as BJP’s Punjab unit chief.Five states, including Goa, go to polls by early 2017 and another two, including Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, by December 2017. BJP would work towards retaining Gujarat and wresting Himachal from the Congress. The other four states slated for polls by early 2017 are Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Manipur and Uttarakhand. BJP is keen to win UP and Uttarakhand and retain Punjab.Since BJP president Amit Shah has already put in place a grand strategy for UP, along with its ally Apna Dal, there is possibility of inclusion of its MP Anupriya Patel in the council of ministers to give boost to electoral prospects in the state. Minister for minority affairs Najma Haptulla, who has already crossed the age of 75 last year, an unspoken cut-off age for ministers, may have to make way for a younger person. Former journalist MJ Akbar could enter the team replacing the minority face. Another face from Maharashtra, BJP leader Vinay Sahasrabuddhe is expected to join the council of ministers. “There will be a reshuffle, but a date is not certain,” Shah had said at a press conference at the party headquarters last month.

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Key portfolios likely to remain untouched in Cabinet reshuffle