Amid uproar on Rising fuel prices, unemployment, inflation and job losses and farmer’s agitation, the Modi government decided to reshuffle the Cabinet by allocating various portfolios to young ministers by taking away additional portfolios of senior leaders. A new “Ministry of Cooperation” has been created to “strengthen the cooperative movement in the country”, according to the government.
There are now more women ministers and special representation will be given to those who have administrative experience, say the sources. Government sources also say the revamped cabinet will include “PhDs, MBAs, post-graduates and professionals”, to bring up the average education level. The reboot will also focus on regions within states, with an eye on polls in five states next year and the 2024 national election.
Fifteen Cabinet ministers and 28 Ministers of State, comprising new faces and those elevated, were sworn in at a ceremony held in the Darbar Hall of the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
This is the first reshuffle in the Council of Ministers by Prime Minister Modi since he assumed charge for a second term in May 2019. An extensive and protracted review was carried out by Modi and the BJP top brass through a series of meetings with ministers ahead of Wednesday’s big exercise. These meetings were also held in the wake of widespread criticism of the Central government’s handling of the COVID crisis.
Narayan Rane, 69, a Rajya Sabha MP and a former Maharashtra chief minister, was the first to take the oath.
After Rane, Sarbananda Sonowal, former Assam chief minister, took oath in English. The 58-year-old leader has earlier served as Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship; and Sports and Youth Affairs under Prime Minister Modi Congress-turned-BJP leader Jyotiraditya Scindia, a Rajya Sabha MP from Madhya Pradesh, also took oath as a cabinet minister. The 50-year-old leader was Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Power and Union Minister of State for Commerce & Communications in the earlier UPA government.
Lok Sabha MP from Tikamgarh in Madhya Pradesh Virendra Kumar, Rajya Sabha MP from Odisha Ashwini Vaishnaw, Rajya Sabha MP from Bihar and JD(U) leader R C P Singh, Lok Sabha MP from Bihar’s Hajipur Pashupati Kumar Paras, were also sworn-in as Cabinet ministers.
Kiren Rijiju, R K Singh, Hardeep Singh Puri, Mansukh Mandaviya, Parshottam Rupala, G Kishan Reddy and Anurag Thakur were elevated to the Cabinet-level.
Bhupendra Yadav, who has been serving in the BJP organisation as a general secretary, was also sworn-in as a Cabinet minister.
As many as 28 Ministers of State took oath including seven from Uttar Pradesh which goes to polls next year with the BJP seeking a second term there.
Pankaj Choudhary, Anupriya Patel, Bhanu Pratap Singh Verma, Kaushal Kishore, S P S Baghel and Ajay Kumar– all Lok Sabha MPs from Uttar Pradesh — took oath as new Union Ministers of State. B L Verma, a Rajya Sabha MP from Uttar Pradesh, was also sworn-in as a Minister of State.
Rajeev Chandrasekhar and Shobha Karandlaje, MPs from Karnataka; Darshana Vikram Jardosh from Gujarat; New Delhi Lok Sabha MP Meenakshi Lekhi; Annapurna Devi (Jharkhand), A Narayanaswamy (Karnataka); Ajay Bhatt (Uttarakhand), Chauhan Devusinh (Gujarat), were also sworn in as MoS.
Others who took oath as Ministers of State at the ceremony were Bhagwanth Khuba (Karnataka); Kapil Moreshwar Patil (Maharashtra); Pratima Bhoumik (Tripura); Subhas Sarkar (West Bengal); Bhagwat Kishanrao Karad (Maharashtra); Rajkumar Ranjan Singh (Manipur); MPs Bharati Pawar (Maharashtra), Bishweswar Tudu (Odisha) and Shantanu Thakur (West Bengal) Munjapara Mahendrabhai (Gujarat), John Barla and Nisith Pramanik (West Bengal); and BJP’s Tamil Nadu state president L Murugan. At least 16 entrants to the Council of Ministers are first time MPs.
Ahead of the cabinet changes, Union Social Justice Minister Thawarchand Gehlot was elevated as Governor and several Governors were shifted on Tuesday. The Union Cabinet, which can have 81 members, currently has 52 ministers. This means 29 ministers can be added.
Senior Congress leader told Afternoon Voice that, “Jyotiraditya Scindia, Sarbananda Sonowal, Narayan Rane, Lok Janshakti Party (LJP)’s Pashupati Para – none of these names inspire any confidence and none of them are exciting. Just politicians being rewarded. None of them are particularly young either. So, I’m not sure what the fuss is about. Anyways, the PMO makes all decisions so irrelevant who the ministers are.”
A social worker in Mumbai said, “How does this news even matter for the common man? In the end, none of these ministers would do anything for the people, only interested in their own personal gains. People were dying during the oxygen crisis, what were these so-called “leaders” doing then?”