(IANS) Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday carried out a major reshuffle of his council of ministers by inducting 19 new faces, elevating Minister of State for Environment Prakash Javadekar to the cabinet and dropping five junior ministers.
All the 19 new ministers sworn at a solemn function at the Rashtrapati Bhavan are from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) barring RPI leader Ramdas Athawale of Maharashtra and Apna Dal’s Anupriya Patel of Uttar Pradesh.
The ministers were sworn in by President Pranab Mukherjee in the presence of Vice President Hamid Ansari, Modi, BJP President Amit Shah and several union ministers including Arun Jaitley, Rajnath Singh and Nitin Gadkari.
BJP veteran L.K. Advani and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj missed the event but for different reasons.
The five Ministers of State who were dropped were Sanwar Lal Jat (Water Resources), Nihalchand (Panchayati Raj), Ram Shankar Katheria (HRD), Mansukh Bhai Vasava (Tribal Affairs) and Mohanbhai Kundaria (Agriculture).
Katheria has been lately vocal in favour of hardline Hindutva politics.
“Whatever the reason I was dropped, I have been told by party president that I should be working for the BJP,” Katheria told IANS.
Contrary to earlier speculation that four to five Ministers of State would get cabinet berth, only Javadekar got a promotion.
The new Ministers of State are drawn from Uttar Pradesh, which will see assembly elections next year, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra, Karnataka, West Bengal and Assam, where a BJP government took office in May for the first time.
Delhi too got representation. Vijay Goel, although elected from Rajasthan to the Rajya Sabha, is a former BJP President in Delhi.
The new ministers are: Faggan Singh Kulaste, S.S. Ahluwalia, Ramesh Chandappa Jigajinagi, Vijay Goel, Ramdas Athawale, Rajen Gohain, Anil Madhav Dave, Parshottam Rupala, M.J. Akbar, Arjun Ram Meghwal, Jaswant Sinh Bhabhor, Mahendra Nath Pandey, Ajay Tamta, Krishna Raj, Mansukh Bhai Mandavia, Anupriya Patel, C.R. Chaudhary, P.P. Chaudhary and Subhas Ramrao Bhamre.
Among the new ministers, 16 are green horns while Goel, S.S. Ahluwalia and Faggan Singh Kulaste have been union ministers earlier.
Political sources said Ahluwalia, elected to the Lok Sabha from Darjeeling, and Akbar, a Rajya Sabha member from Madhya Pradesh, have been inducted in a bid to woo minorities.
With Tuesday’s exercise, the total number of ministers in the Modi government from Uttar Pradesh has risen to 15, besides Prime Minister Modi himself who represents Varanasi in the Lok Sabha.
The three new ministers from Uttar Pradesh are Anupriya Patel (Mirzapur), Mahendra Nath Pandey (Chandauli) and Shahjahanpur MP Krishna Raj (Shahjahanpur). While Patel is a Kurmi, Pandey is a Brahmin and Krishna Raj is a Dalit.
The maximum of four ministers were picked from BJP-ruled Rajasthan: Arjun Ram Meghwal, P.P. Chaudhary, C.R. Chaudhary and Vijay Goel.
Gujarat got three ministerial berths in Parshottam Rupala, Jaswant Sinh Bhabhor and Mansukh Bhai Mandavia. So did Madhya Pradesh.
Assam’s Rajen Gohain was inducted. Uttarakhand and West Bengal also got one minister each in the expansion.
The strength of Modi’s Council of Ministers now stands at 78, he included.
Modi took over as Prime Minister on May 26, 2014 and first expanded his ministry in November 2014.