New Delhi: The Union Cabinet reshuffle on Sunday is likely to see the induction of at least nine new faces, with an eye on strengthening the Narendra Modi government’s policy push and focusing on last-mile delivery of services to people.

The Union Cabinet’s expansion, which saw the resignation of six incumbent ministers in the run-up, is being done keeping in mind the issues of development, good governance and upliftment of weaker sections.

According to people aware of the developments, nine new persons will be inducted in the Cabinet, including Satya Pal Singh and Shiv Pratap Shukla from Uttar Pradesh, Raj Kumar Singh and Ashwini Kumar Choubey from Bihar, Virendra Kumar from Madhya Pradesh, Anant Kumar Hegde from Karnataka, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat from Rajasthan, Alphons Kannanthanam from Kerala and former Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer Hardeep Puri.

All nine faces are senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders.

The swearing-in of new ministers will take place at 10am on Sunday, following which the portfolio allocation for all ministers will be known.

With a focus on performance and upcoming assembly elections, where the BJP will be in direct contest against the Congress, the Cabinet expansion is likely to focus on poll-bound states of Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, and Rajasthan. Interestingly, some of the likely ministers are expected from states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The two states, which account for 120 Lok Sabha seats, had helped the BJP come to power in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and are critical to its 2019 electoral plan.

Alphons, a former Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer who headed the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) during his tenure, is also likely to become part of the council of ministers. The focus on professionals in the Cabinet is indicated by the likely induction of Hardeep Singh Puri, a former IFS officer who had joined the BJP just before the party came to power in 2014.

Sunday will see the third Union Cabinet reshuffle, which experts feel is likely to be the last big rejig ahead of the Lok Sabha polls in 2019. Some key members of the council of ministers, who have resigned in the past few days, are likely to be inducted in functionary roles in the party organization.

Senior BJP leaders feel that the much-expected rejig will have performance as a key criterion.

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