NEW DELHI: Aiming image makeover and poll readiness with caste equations, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday carried out a major shakeout of his council of ministers. The second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic apparently accounted for 12 ministers, including heavyweights Harsh Vardhan, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Prakash Javdekar, dropped as the Prime Minister sought to shake off inertia by infusing fresh blood to rejuvenate the NDA government at the Centre.
The government’s seemingly tough moments in Supreme Court and High Courts during the second wave of Covid-19 possibly accounted for Prasad’s place in Cabinet, while Javdekar was seen to have not delivered as the first spokesperson of the Centre as Minister for Information and Broadcasting. Vardhan has been in the firing line for not anticipating the second wave of the pandemic and planning accordingly.
The axe also fell on Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank (Education), Sadananda Gauda (Chemical and fertilizer) and six Ministers of states, which included the likes of Santosh Kumar Gangwar, Babul Supriyo. With Thaverchand Gehlot, the Prime Minister got rid of six Cabinet ministers.
Anurag Thakur, Hardeep Puri, G Kishen Reddy, Kiren Rijiju. R K Singh, Mansukh Mandavia, Purushottam Rupala were promoted to the Cabinet ranks, seemingly as rewards for their combativeness and political significance in their respective states, while 43 ministers were administered the oath of office by President Ram Nath Kovind.
First to take the oath was Narayan Rane as the Cabinet minister, with the BJP sending message loud and clear that the party is not looking to win back the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, aiming to go solo in the next Assembly polls, and build a support base in the Konkan region. The former chief minister of Assam Sarbananda Sonowal along with the architect of the BJP government in Madhya Pradesh Jyotirdaitya Scindia was sworn in as the Cabinet Ministers.
The BJP national general secretary Bhupender Yadav, a key aide of the Union Home Minister for Home Affairs Amit Shah, and a protégé of former Union Minister Arun Jaitely, joined the Cabinet. Bureaucrat turned politician Ashwani Vaishnav from Odisha also took the oath as the Cabinet minister, who in the past had worked in the PMO when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister.
A dozen ministers from the scheduled caste background were also drafted in the council of ministers, which included the likes of A Narayanswamy (Karnataka), Kaushal Kishore (Uttar Pradesh), L Murugan (Tamil Nadu). With eight ministers hailing from the tribal community, the BJP clearly sought to work out its social engineering with the scheduled castes, tribes, and other backward castes (OBCs).
The NDA allies also took part in the swearing-in ceremony with RCP Singh of the JD (U) and Pashupati Paras of the LJP, Cabinet ranks, and Anupriya Patel of the Apna Dal in UP as MoS joining the government.
For the next year's Assembly elections in Gujarat, Prime Minister promoted Mansukh Mandavia and Purushottam Rupala, both hailing from electorally significant Patidar community to Cabinet ranks. While G Kishen Reddy’s elevation to Cabinet rank was in line with BJP’s political aspirations in Telangana, Hardeep Singh Puri benefited from the party’s woes in Punjab unrelenting and being the lone Sikh member in the Council of the minister to get the Cabinet rank.
Also aiming combative faces in the government, PM drafted in Shobha Kranandlaje, Meenakshi Lekhi as MoS, while West Bengal was represented by John Barla, Subhash Sarkar, Shantanu Thakur, and Nishith Pramanik.