New Delhi: The Cabinet expansion, which saw a major overhaul after PM Narendra Modi dropped 12 Union Ministers holding key portfolios like law, health, and education for the reshuffle, the first of his second term.
Headlined by senior leaders like Ravi Shankar Prasad and Prakash Javadekar, the 12 ministers tendered their resignation ahead of the swearing-in of new ministers. PM Modi’s calibrated move months ahead of Assembly polls in five states, point to a much larger strategy in play.
By inducting former Maharashtra CM Narayan Tatu Rane, BJP seems to have closed doors for a reunion with Shiv Sena for the time being. Rane is a former Maharashtra CM who later joined Congress and is now a part of Modi cabinet as the Minister of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises.
Former Shiv Sena member Narayan Rane founded the Maharashtra Swabhiman Party in 2017 after parting ways with Congress. In 2019, BJP gave a ticket to Rane’s son Nitesh from Konkan. Later, Narayan Rane got the Rajya Sabha seat from BJP’s quota.
With former CM Devendra Fadnavis staying put in state politics, the reshuffle move says that the battle for Mumbai is still on.
Narendra Modi has continued to repose faith in bureaucrats and technocrats, which was visible in the latest Cabinet expansion. Former IAS officer turned politician Ashvini Vishnaw was handed over key portfolios including Railways, Communications and Information Technology. Others like Hardeep Puri and RK Singh were also promoted and awarded with heavyweight Core sectors. While Raj Kumar Singh became the union minister of Power and Renewable Energy, Hardeep Puri will handle a Petroleum and Natural Gas Ministry as well as Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.
Another bureaucrat-turned-politician who retained an important portfolio of External Affairs is Dr S Jaishankar. On Wednesday, he welcomed Meenakshi Lekhi and Dr Rajkumar Ranjan Singh to the team of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). Jaishankar remains one of Modi’s trusted aides, who took over the Foreign ministry after the sudden demise of Sushma Swaraj in 2019. Sushma Swaraj is considered by many as the finest external affairs minister of India and Jaishankar has been successfully filling in her shoes since her demise two years ago.
For Bihar, the elevation of Pashupati Nath Paras elevation as Minister of Food Processing Industries is a stamp of approval and shot in the arm for Ram Vilas Paswan’s brother in his fight with nephew Chirag Paswan for control over Lok Janshakti Party.
With Gujarat ministers round the corner, BJP has sought to balance caste equations in the state. Gujarat has now seven ministers in the union council. Apart from Amit Shah and External Affairs Minister Jaishankar, Union Minister for Home and now Co-operation, Amit Shah, Darshana Jardosh representing Surat from South Gujarat has been made a minister od state in railways and textile ministries.
In the recent local body polls, BJP faced a stiff challenge from AAP in Surat municipality. Devusinh Chauhan, a Kshatriya from Central Gujarat has been made a minister of state in the Ministry of Communications. Parsottam Rupala and Mansukh Mandaviya representing Kadva Patidar and Leuva Patidar respectively, are now in the council to strike a caste balance. Neither the current Chief Minister nor the Gujarat state President is currently from the Patel community.
Nitin Gadkari is one of the few ministers whose stint at Parivahan Bhawan has continued since he first joined the Modi government in 2014. Gadkari continues to hold Surface Transport Ministry through one of his key bureaucrats NHAI Chairman who was recently transferred to Dehradoon as Uttrakhand Chief Secretary.
The new Cabinet of the BJP-led government has 12 members from the SC community, including two in the cabinet, eight members will be from Scheduled Tribes including three in the cabinet, and over 25 members from the OBC community including five in the cabinet.
There also has been an increase in the number of ministers with professional qualifications in the cabinet and now there are 13 lawyers, six doctors, five engineers, and seven civil servants.