Vardhan, Javadekar among 12 dropped, 2 ex-Congressmen, 3 dozen fresh faces inducted
New Delhi, July 7: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday massively rejigged his Cabinet by inducting three dozen fresh faces while dropping 12 ministers, including heavyweight Harsh Vardhan, Ravi Shankar Prasad and Prakash Javadekar.
In all, 43 ministers were sworn-in —15 of Cabinet rank, the remaining 28 as ministers of state—by President Ram Nath Kovind at a ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Omission of senior leaders, which also included Ramesh Pokhriyal and Santosh Gangwar in the first-ever cabinet reshuffle since Modi assumed charge for a second term in May 2019, was a surprise.
Dr Vardhan and his junior minister Ashwani Kumar Choubey were asked by the Prime Minister to step down.
The devastating second wave of COVID-19, shortage of medical oxygen and irregular supply of anti-COVID-19 vaccines has left the government in an embarrassing situation.
Prasad, holding the charge of Information and Technology Ministry, caught in the ongoing battle with social media giants like Twitter and WhatsApp over the new IT rules, was dropped.
Among others, the Prime Minister gave cabinet berth to former Congressmen Jyotiraditya Scindia, who helped in bringing the BJP government back to power in Madhya Pradesh, Sarbanand Sonowal who left the Assam chief minister post for Hemant Sarma and Pashupati Kumar Paras estranged uncle of Lok Jan Shakti leader Chirag Paswan.
Modi promoted Hardeep Puri, Anurag Thakur, RK Singh, Kiren Rijiju, Mansukh Mandaviya, Parshottam Rupala and G Kishan Reddy to Cabinet rank.
In his new Cabinet, Modi gave due weightage to poll-bound states with one-fifth of new ministers coming from Uttar Pradesh, three from Gujarat and one from Manipur. Moreover, Hardeep Singh Puri and Anurag Thakur, representing Punjab and Himachal, were promoted to Cabinet.
The Prime Minister also extended his hand to his party BJP’s allies by giving one berth each to JD(U), LJP and Apna Dal. From Uttarakhand Ajay Bhatt replaced Ramesh Pokhriyal in the Cabinet.
To factor in caste and gender balance, the number of OBC’s in the Cabinet have increased to 27 from 13, Dalits from 3 to 12 while women from four to 11, which includes seven new faces.
Modi also inducted two former IAS officer RCP Singh and former private secretary to late Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
The Modi government also brought former Maharashtra chief minister Narayan Rane was earlier associated with Shiv Sena and Congress.
From Karnataka, where Yediyurappa has refused to step down from the chief minister’s post despite internal frictions, four new faces were inducted into the cabinet.
In Bengal, where the BJP though increased the seat share in the recent Assembly elections, but was miserably defeated by the AITMC, four state leaders were added to the Cabinet.
The Cabinet reshuffle and expansion took place at 1800 hrs after Mr Modi held a high-level meeting at his official residence. Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP national president JP Nadda were also present.
The exercise was slated for 2020 but had to be deferred repeatedly owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A slew of gubernatorial appointments, including that of Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Thawarchand Gehlot as the Governor of Karnataka were announced on Tuesday. Also, the government decided to create a separate ‘Ministry of Cooperation with the aim of ‘Sahkar se Samriddhi’ (prosperity through cooperatives).
Of the 81 slots of the council of ministers, now 79 are filled by the National Democratic Alliance government at the Centre.
The previous reshuffle was conducted in 2017 when Nirmala Sitharaman was made the Defence Minister. (UNI)