NEW DELHI: A dozen Union Ministers on Wednesday seemingly paid the price for the perceived erosion of “Brand Modi” within the BJP, in the wake of the ferocious second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. Harsh Vardhan, Ravi Shankar Prasad and Prakash Javadekar led the pack of ministers axed from the council of ministers, with BJP leaders attributing these ousters to their failure during the second wave, which ravaged all parts of the country, with heavy toll of the people.
Vardhan had been in the line of fire apparently for not anticipating the second wave of the pandemic, even while the ministers and the BJP leaders made a chorus to hail the leadership of the Prime Minister for “victory against the pandemic” despite Maharashtra, Kerala and a few other states giving warning signals.
He headed the Group of Ministers on Covid-19. Yet, India was seen wanting in the vaccination drive, besides flip-flop on vaccine procurement policy. Then, the West Bengal Assembly elections and Kumbh Mela celebrations in Haridwar were attributed for the sudden spike in Covid-19 cases.
The BJP leaders claimed that Prasad, 66, as the Union Minister for Law and Justice, also faced axe from the Cabinet due to the Centre facing embarrassing moments in the courts. There were times when the government was sweating out to explain its vaccine procurement policy and oxygen management when people struggled to get hospital beds in various parts of the country. The BJP leaders, while explaining the axing of the senior ministers, claimed that “Brand Modi” took a hit, with the Central government seen in the eyes of the people as passing the buck to the state governments in the management of the second wave of the pandemic.
Javadekar, 70, being the Information and Broadcasting Minister, is seen within the BJP to have failed to deliver as the government’s first spokesperson, while the image of the Centre took a beating during the second wave of Covid-19. He was seen as distant from the media, while the government got much of “the bad press during the pandemic”, said a senior BJP functionary.
While Ramesh Pokhriyal “Nishank” had been admitted in the AIIMS for post-Covid complications, BJP leaders said that the Ministry of Education needed “a little more dynamism”. Sadananda Gowda, again, was seen not active in the government. Gowda was made the Minister for Railways by the Prime Minister in his first term, but he had to shed the portfolio due to “lack of dynamism”. Santosh Gangwar, Babul Supriyo, Sanjay Dhotre, Rattan Lal Kataria, Pratap Chandra Sarangi, Debasree Chaudhary were among the Ministers of State who lost their positions in the council of ministers.