India PM Narendra Modi set for first cabinet reshuffle on Sunday

NEW DELHI (AFP) - India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi is on Sunday expected to carry out the first major reshuffle of his cabinet since storming to power in May, with the key defence portfolio likely to go to a new minister.

Manohar Parrikar, a sauve regional leader of Modi's right-wing Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), is tipped to take over as defence minister after resigning Saturday as chief minister of the resort coastal state of Goa.

Parrikar's likely appointment would ease the burden on Arun Jaitley, who has been juggling both the defence and finance ministries while battling ill-health.

A government source told AFP on Saturday that Parrikar had accepted the offer to "head a key ministry" but the portfolio would only be announced the next day.

Analysts said the cabinet rejig would come as a relief to several of Modi's ministers who have been handling multiple portfolios.

"Jaitley, for example, was given two key portfolios - each of which required a full-time minister," K.G. Suresh, a senior fellow with the Delhi-based Vivekanand International Foundation think-tank, told AFP.

"Modi was trying to experiment with the idea of having very few ministers," Suresh said.

"But it seems he has realised that his ministers are perhaps over-burdened and not able to do justice to their work." Suresh pointed to recent developments on India's borders with giant neighbours Pakistan and China as underscoring the need for a full-time defence minister.

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