New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi today inducted 19 new faces, including BJP leaders S.S. Ahluwalia, M.J. Akbar and Vijay Goel, while elevating the environment minister Prakash Javadekar, in the second expansion of his government, ahead of political battles in Uttar Pradesh and other states.
This marks Modi’s second cabinet reshuffle in a little over two years since he took office in May, 2014. Five ministers of state have been dropped and a number of Dalit and Other Backward Classes leaders given new ministerial positions, apparently with an eye on the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Uttarakhand scheduled for next year and Gujarat later.
Javadekar, who held independent charge of environment, was the lone minister to be promoted to the cabinet rank, while the other new inductees took oaths as ministers of state. Earlier, there was speculation that the power minister Piyush Goel and commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman would be elevated to the cabinet.
Ajay Tamta (Uttarakhand), Arjun Ram Meghwal (Rajasthan), Krishna Raj (UP), Athawale (Maharashtra) and Ramesh C. Jigajinagi (Karnataka) were among the Dalit MPs administered the oath of office and secrecy by President Pranab Mukherjee at a ceremony in Rashtrapati Bhawan attended by vice-president Hamid Ansari, Modi, his cabinet colleagues, BJP president Amit Shah and leaders of the allied parties, among others. No Congress leader was present.
Others who were inducted included P.P. Chaudhary, C.R. Chaudhary (Rajasthan), A.M. Dave, Faggan Singh Kulaste (Madhya Pradesh), Mahendra Nath Pandey (UP), Purshotam Rupala, J. Bhabhor and Mansukhbhai Mandaviya (Gujarat), Rajen Gohain (Assam) and S.R. Bhamre (Maharashtra).
After the dropping of five ministers, today’s expansion took the total strength of the council of ministers to 78, keeping it just under the constitutionally allowed maximum.
A Rashtrapati Bhavan communique said the president has accepted the resignation of Sanawar Lal Jat (Water Resources), Mohanbhai Kalyanjibhai Kundariya (Agriculture), Nihal Chand (Panchayati Raj), Mansukhbhai Dhanjibhai Vasava (Tribal Affairs) and Ram Shankar Katheria (Human Resources).