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Lens on omissions, inclusions in Cabinet

Leaders who faced tough contests rewarded; ministers perceived ‘not humble’ rested

Lens on omissions, inclusions in Cabinet

Tribune News Service

Aditi Tandon

New Delhi, June 10

A day after the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government, arclights are on shock omissions and shock inclusions in the Union Council of Ministers, with prominent Lok Sabha poll winners failing to make the cut and some losers managing to get in.

Among the most surprising absentees from the Union Cabinet are three senior ministers in the outgoing Modi Cabinet who won the Lok Sabha elections. These include Anurag Thakur, who successfully defended Himachal Pradesh’s Hamirpur seat for the fifth successive time; Narayan Rane, who won from Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg in Maharashtra and Parashottam Rupala, who clocked a victory margin of 4.84 lakh votes from Gujarat’s Rajkot.

Among the other prominent winners who were not made ministers are Ravi Shankar Prasad, who successfully defended his Lok Sabha seat Patna Saheb, and Rajiv Pratap Rudy, who again won from Saran. Equally significant was the nomination of former BJP Tamil Nadu chief L Murugan as a Minister of State on Sunday even though he lost the Lok Sabha poll from the Nilgiris. Murugan is the sole exception to Modi’s call of dropping all outgoing ministers who lost the parliamentary poll.

Of the 17 union ministers who were defeated, 16 have been dropped in the new Council of Ministers, Murugan being the only exception to the norm.

The inclusion of former three-term Congress MP from Punjab Ravneet Singh Bittu in the Council of Ministers despite his loss to a Congress rival in Ludhiana also continues to be debated in the political circles.

In the same league is the nomination of Kerala BJP general secretary George Kurien as an MoS. Kurien and Bittu both would need to come to either the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha within six months of appointment as ministers. With several of BJP’s Rajya Sabha MPs winning the Lok Sabha poll this time — Piyush Goyal, Bhupender Yadav, Mansukh Mandaviya, Dharmendra Pradhan and Sarbanand Sonowal — there would be ample vacancies arising in the Upper House for the BJP to accommodate Bittu and Kurien, sources said.

Prominent among outgoing Cabinet ministers who have been excluded from the new Council of Ministers are Smriti Irani, who lost in Amethi; RK Singh, who lost in Arrah, Mahendra Nath Pandey, who lost in Chandauli; and Arjun Munda, who lost in Jharkhand’s Khunti.

Those rewarded despite losses are mostly leaders from states where the BJP is struggling electorally, be it Tamil Nadu, Punjab or Kerala. That explains why the BJP has made its first-ever Kerala Lok Sabha MP actor Suresh Gopi an MoS. Likewise, L Murugan was rewarded for his work in Tamil Nadu where the party’s vote share has risen from about 3 to 11 per cent. In Telangana too, PM Modi has brought G Kishen Reddy back as minister and inducted former state chief Sanjay Bandi into the Cabinet as an MoS. The BJP performed well in Telangana, adding four Lok Sabha seats this time from four in 2019 to eight.

“The PM has rewarded leaders who fought tough elections in electorally challenging landscapes,” a BJP source said. That explains the induction as MoS of V Somanna, who unsuccessfully contested against Karnataka Congress strongman Siddaramaiah last year and lost. Sources said ministers who were perceived as “not humble” and “speaking out of line” had been rested. Rupala was at the centre of a controversial remark against a community, putting the BJP on the defensive at the height of the national poll.

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