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21 more join Team Modi; Sena keeps off
Parrikar gets Defence, Prabhu Railways, Nadda Health, Birender Rural Development
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 9
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today added 21 more ministers four Cabinet and 17 Ministers of State, including three with Independent charge to his Council of Ministers increasing its strength from 45 to 66.

Along with this, he also reshuffled key portfolios Defence, Health and Family Welfare, Railways and Rural Development allocating them to newly inducted Cabinet Ministers Manohar Parrikar, JP Nadda, Suresh Prabhu and Birender Singh, respectively.

The Shiv Sena decided to stay away from the swearing-in ceremony following a high drama in the morning when its nominee Anil Desai did not get the Cabinet rank and Suresh Prabhu left the party to join the BJP.

While Parrikar's appointment as the Defence Minister and Prabhu's as the Railways Minister was along expected lines, the taking away of the Health Ministry from Dr Harsh Vardhan, who has been shifted to Science and Technology and Earth Sciences, came as a major surprise. Though Finance Minister Arun Jailtey has been relieved of Defence, he has been given the additional charge of Information and Broadcasting.

Haryana leader Birender Singh has been allocated the Rural Development and Panchayati Raj and Drinking Water and Sanitation Minister, a portfolio which was being held as additional charge by Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari after the death of Maharashtra leader Gopinath Munde.

It is an important portfolio considering the PM's stress on cleanliness and villages.

Along with Gadkari and Jaitley, the other Cabinet minister who found himself unburdened is Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. The Law and Justice Ministry being held by him has been passed on to former Railway Minister DV Sadananda Gowda.

Officials say Gowda was given the new assignment as part of Modi's thrust to catalyse the infrastructure sector though sources indicate some other reasons, including some allegations against his son.

The sources say the reason why Prasad, a lawyer, and Harsh Vardhan, a doctor, have been relieved of Law and Health, respectively, is because Modi does not want "clash of interests due to professional proximity".

Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti has been made the junior minister in Food Processing, which is held by Akali Dal leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal, a Cabinet Minister. This is a significant development and so is the allocation of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship and Parliamentary Affairs portfolios close to Modi's heart to Minister of State with Independent charge Rajiv Pratap Rudy.

Noida MP Mahesh Sharma gets independent charge of Culture and Tourism along with Civil Aviation and Telangana leader Bandaru Dattatreya Labour and Employment. Hoshiarpur MP Vijay Sampla is the new Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment and Olympian Rajyavardhan Singh Rathod for Information and Broadcasting.

Modi's balancing act

While focusing on the party's future prospects in crucial states such as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Punjab by including leaders with proven track record and professional credentials Parrikar, Prabhu, Rudy and Jayant Sinha (the new junior minister in Finance) he appeared to well take care of also his government's functional needs.

Observors say Cabinet changes highlight the fact that the PM is in full control of the government, the party and also the allies - despite the high-drama during the day courtesy the Shiv Sena.

Apart from doing a fine balancing act among different needs regional aspirations, caste factors and party's political needs - Modi's main aim was to unburden some of his ministers holding two and also three key portfolios. It is obvious his earlier concept of restricting power in a lean and compact government - minimum government and maximum governance - has not proved as practical.

Modi's Council of Ministers includes 27 Cabinet ministers, 13 Ministers of State with Independent Charge and 26 Ministers of State. The new council with a talent of wide-ranging spectrum also bears a distinct stamp of the RSS with several inclusions - such as Parrikar, JP Nadda, Hansraj Gangaram Ahir and Vijay Sampla - from Sangh background.

Modi's Cabinet now boasts of two IITians - Parrikar and Sinha - an Olympic silver medallist - Rathod - a commercial pilot - Rudy -and a Bollywood singer - Babul Supriyo, who is now the junior minister in Urban Development and HUPA.

But, first-time Uttar Pradesh MP Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti is the lone woman face in today's expansion of the council which now has eight women. Keeping in mind the elections, Modi has brought in three ministers from Bihar, four from Uttar Pradesh and one from West Bengal - Asansol MP Supriyo - along with Dalit faces. With inclusion of three ministers, Bihar's representation has gone up to eight - the second after UP which now has 13 ministers.

Focusing on balancing regional aspirations with an eye on forthcoming must-win Bihar elections, Modi has included a Rajput - Rudy - along with Ram Kirpal Yadav, who is crucial to party's plan of making inroads into the influential Yadav vote in the state. Aiding them is Giriraj Singh, the controversial leader from the powerful Bhumihar community.

Vijay Sampla - a Dalit minister from Punjab is believed to be a signal to ally Akali Dal that the party was consider going it alone the next time the state goes to the polls. By selecting Supriyo, it is clear that the BJP wants to give the ruling Trinamool Congress a run for its money in the next state elections.

Observers say inclusion of leaders such as Sampla, Agra MP Ramshankar Katheria and the Sadhvi proves that Modi is widening the party's base beyond upper and middle classes and castes like Brahmins and Baniyas - its traditional vote bank. Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti has helped the party make inroads among the Dalit and Backward Classes in politically-crucial UP. The Fatehpur MP enjoys wide support from Kashyap and Nishad communities.

Along with incluing technocrat-turned politician Parrikar, low-key organisational man JP Nadda and Prabhu his Cabinet would also include the powerful Jat leader from Haryana Birender Singh, a former Congress Working Committee member, whose induction is expected to woo the crucial vote bank in Delhi elections.

The three new ministers of state with independent charge include Rudy, who incidentally has also been a general secretary of the Punjab University Student Council, the lone Telangana MP Bandaru Dattatreya and Mahesh Sharma, the Gautam Buddh Nagar MP whose entry surprised many.

Naqvi, BJP vice-president and a minister in the Vajpayee government, was only made a Minister of State, while Sharma - a first time member of Lok Sabha - was made Minister of State with Independent Charge. Naqvi, Sharma, Katheriya and Jyoti are from the UP quota.

Sources say Modi will tomorrow chair the first meeting of the expanded Cabinet, which will be followed by a meeting of the Council of Ministers.

All in the day

  • The swearing-in ceremony was attended by Vice-President Hamid Ansari, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairperson PJ Kurien and BJP veteran LK Advani
  • BJP-ruled states CMs Vasundhara Raje, Raman Singh, Devendra Fadnavis and Manohar Lal Khattar and Andhra Pradesh CM Chandrababu Naidu were also present
  • No one from the Congress was present at the ceremony
  • Ahead of the swearing-in, the new ministers had a breakfast meeting with Modi at his Race Course residence
  • Except Naqvi, Rudy and Yadav, all other Ministers of State are newcomers and first-time MPs
  • At present 27 are of Cabinet rank, 13 Ministers of State with Independent Charge and 26 Ministers of State 

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