INDIA. Mumbai: Balancing his apple cart by including members of different caste and communities, from different regions,Prime Minister Narendra Modi expanded his cabinet by swearing in 43 ministers (28 Ministers of State and 15 cabinet ministers), taking the strength of the Council of Ministers to 77 on Wednesday.
The oath of office and secrecy was administered to the new ministers by President Ram Nath Kovind at a ceremony held at Rashtrapati Bhawan.
The new ministers included 7 women (total number of women ministers is 11 now) and 4 former chief ministers. The composition is 8 ministers from Uttar Pradesh, 5 from Gujarat, 4 each from West Bengal, Karnataka, and Maharashtra and three from Bihar 2 each from Madhya Pradesh and Odisha and one each from Manipur, Tamil Nadu, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Delhi, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Tripura, Rajasthan, Telangana, and Himachal Pradesh.
Before the cabinet expansion, 12 ministers resigned, some of the existing ministers were elevated and the cabinet was infused with new, young faces. Those who resigned were:
1.Ravi Shankar Prasad, 2. Prakash Javadekar, 3. Babul Supriyo, 4. Harsh Vardan, 5. Pratap Sarangi, 6. DV Sadananda Gowda, 7. Ramesh Pokhriyal, 8.Debashree Chaudhuri, 9. Santosh Gangwar, 10. Sanjay Shamrao Dhotre, 11. Rattan Lal Kataria and 12. Thaawarchand Gehlot.
The key portfolios
Home- Amit Shah(who will also be holding the charge of new Ministry of Cooperation), Defence- Raj Nath Singh, Finance- Nirmala Sitharaman, External Affairs- Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, Agriculture- Narendra Singh Tomar, Civil Aviation- Jyotiraditya M. Scindia, Railways- Ashwini Vaishnaw, Health-Mansukh Mandaviya, Power- Raj Kumar Singh, Law and Justice- Kiren Rijiju, Education- Dharmendra Pradhan, I & B-
Anurag Singh Thakur, Petroleum and Natural Gas-Hardeep Singh Puri, Shipping-Sarbananda Sonowal and Commerce-Piyush Goyal.
Pashupati Paras, the new leader of the Lok Janshakti Party (Bihar) who ousted his nephew Chirag, was appointed cabinet minister. This was followed by concessions to alliance partners like Apna Dal (led by Anupriya Patel who has become a minister) and Janata Dal-United (which is now represented in the union cabinet by its General Secretary, RCP Singh).
L Murugan, BJP party chief in Tamil Nadu who lost the assembly election but helped the party increase its representation in the state, has become a union minister.
Jyotiraditya Scindia (Madhya Pradesh) who defected from the Congress, and helped in installing the BJP government in Madhya Pradesh, was rewarded with cabinet rank. Narayan Rane (originally from the Shiv Sena), from Maharashtra, joined the Congress and then switched on to the BJP was made the cabinet minister. He is expected to help the BJP install itself in the Ratnagiri (Konkan region).
Hardeep Puri (former Minister of State for Civil Aviation, with Independent charge) is now a cabinet minister. He is the only Sikh in the government after the exit of the Shiromani Akali Dal from the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). He has come out in fierce defence of the government against criticism of the Central Vista project.
Ministers of state Anurag Thakur and Kiran Rijiju were elevated to cabinet rank. Former Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal was persuaded to join the union cabinet, enabling a free hand to the present Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma.
Those among the technocrats who have become ministers for the first time are Ashwini Vaishnaw, former IAS officer ((basically from Jodhpur, Rajasthan), who was PS to Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The then Odisha cadre officer was in the Biju Janata Dal but got a seat in the Rajya Sabha from the BJP.
Rajiv Chandrashekhar is a venture capitalist, entrepreneur, and part-owner of several media businesses. He was also one of the people who oversaw the Puducherry elections for the BJP, the only south Indian state among those that went to the polls earlier this year where the BJP was able to form a government. Meenakshi Lekhi, an MP from Delhi, who became a minister and Chandrashekhar are both on the joint parliamentary committee for the Personal Data Protection Bill, which is in its final draft stage.
State-wise representation of the new ministers
Uttar Pradesh– 1. Hardeep Singh Puri, 2. Pankaj Choudhary, 3. Ajay Kumar, 4. Anupriya Patel, 5. Satya Pal Singh Baghel, 6. Bhanu Pratap Singh Verma, 7. Kaushal Kishore and 8. BL Verma. Gujarat-1. Mansukh Mandaviya, 2. Parshottam Rupala, 3. Darshana Vikram Jardosh, 4. Chauhan Devusinh and 5. Munjapara Mahendrabhai.
West Bengal– 1. Subhas Sarkar, 2. Shantanu Thakur, 3. Nisith Pramanik and 4. John Barla. Karnataka- 1. Rajeev Chandrasekhar, 2. Shobha Karandlaje, 3. A. Narayanaswamy and 4. Bhagwant Khuba. Maharashtra-1. Narayan Rane, 2. Kapil Patil, 3. Bhagwat Karad and 4.Dr.Bharati Pravin Pawar.
Bihar– 1. Ramchandra Prasad Singh, 2. Pashu Pati Kumar Paras and 3. Raj Kumar Singh. Madhya Pradesh– 1. Jyotiraditya Scindia and 2. Virendra Kumar. Odisha-1. Ashwini Vaishnaw and 2. Bishweswar Tudu. Manipur-Rajkumar Ranjan Singh, Tamil Nadu-L. Murugan, Arunachal Pradesh-Kiren Rijiju, Assam-Sarbananda Sonowal, Delhi-Meenakshi Lekhi, Jharkhand-Annapurna Devi, Uttarakhand- Ajay Bhatt, Tripura-Pratima Bhoumik, Rajasthan-Bhupendra Yadav, Telengana-G Kishan Reddy, and Himachal Pradesh- Anurag Thakur.
The inclusion of several technocrats and former bureaucrats suggested governance and efficiency were the immediate priorities of the government in the rebuilding that will follow the devastation left behind by the COVID-19 pandemic.