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Friday, 28 June, 2002, 11:15 GMT 12:15 UK
Vajpayee to 'rejuvenate' cabinet
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee
Vajpayee has struggle to keep the government together
Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has said he plans a major cabinet reshuffle next week, half way through his government's five-year term.


We are working to bring greater energy in our work

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee
The reshuffle, due to be announced on Monday, follows a series of catastrophic results for his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in recent state elections.

Mr Vajpayee said the reshuffle would "infuse vigour and rejuvenate" the cabinet as it looks ahead to the next general elections due by 2004.

He also said he was considering creating a position of deputy prime minister in the cabinet, which is widely tipped to go to hardline home minister, LK Advani.

There has also been speculation that the reshuffle is primarily aimed at replacing Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha, who has been criticised by BJP members for failing to promote economic reforms to the electorate.

Poll defeats

Mr Vajpayee had been expected to reshuffle his cabinet since the BJP's electoral fortunes took a nosedive at state elections earlier this year.

Indian voters
The BJP has not fared well in the polls

"Both the BJP and allies have held discussions," he told reporters in Lucknow, capital of the huge northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

"And we are working to bring greater energy in our work, to increase the efficiency of the government and make it more responsive to the people's needs," he said.

The BJP lost control of several states including Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous and politically significant state, in February's elections.

The BJP currently rules only four of the country's 29 states.

Mr Vajpayee said some new faces would be drafted into the cabinet from both the BJP and its allies in the country's 20-member ruling coalition.

Hardline shift

The prime minister also said he was "considering" creating the post of deputy prime minister.

Home Minister LK Advani
Advani could be the next prime minister

Analysts say that if Mr Advani took up this post, would signal a more formal shift within the party towards hardline politics.

He has been a key figure in promoting Hindu revivalism in India in the 10 years,

They say his elevation to deputy premier would also effectively anoint him unofficially as Mr Vajpayee's successor.

The BJP's move to the right comes despite widespread criticism of the party following massive religious violence in the western state of Gujarat earlier this year.

Aside from its appeal to hardline Hindu sentiment among the electorate, correspondents say the BJP has also tried to woo voters with a tough stance against Pakistan over Kashmir.

See also:

03 Jun 02 | South Asia
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24 Feb 02 | South Asia
07 Jan 02 | South Asia
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