New Delhi: Thirty-six new ministers joined the govt and 4 high-profile ministers quit today in PM Modi’s Cabinet mega reboot to offset criticism because the country emerges from a fierce second wave of Covid before key elections.
PM Modi’s Cabinet now has 77 ministers, nearly half them new. Anurag Thakur and Hardeep Puri are among 15 new cabinet ministers.
Sarbananda Sonowal, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Narayan Rane, Bhupender Yadav and Ashwini Vaishnaw were also sworn in as cabinet ministers.
But the exits of IT and Law Minister Shankar Prasad, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan and Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar stood out on each day resignations made bigger news than new ministers.
Harsh Vardhan’s sacking follows months of firefighting because the second surge of Covid engulfed the state , exposing its inadequate health infrastructure. Cities ran out of oxygen and hospital beds and burning pyres at crematoriums and bodies floating in rivers became defining images of an unprecedented national crisis.
Mr Javadekar was among the chief spokespersons of the govt , a task he has performed for years.
Ravi Shankar Prasad’s resignation was a shock as he was seen to be within the core team of the government’s troubleshooters.
A veteran BJP leader, Mr Prasad, like Mr Javadekar, is among the few who were ministers even within the previous BJP government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Mr Prasad’s previous couple of months within the IT ministry were haunted by a legal fight with social media giants including Twitter and Facebook, especially a relentless back-and-forth with Twitter over new IT rules.
All three were seen at the oath ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan tonight .
The government said “20 per cent” ministers – a fifth of the council of ministers — had been dropped and therefore the message was performance-linked.
The vacancies in major ministries signal a shake-up that would see ministers shedding extra portfolios and a few being downgraded. the large Four, however, are unlikely to be affected – the Ministers of Home, Defence, Foreign Affairs and Finance.
Bhupendra Yadav and Meenakshi Lekhi also joined the govt . Seven new ministers are from Uttar Pradesh , which can elect a replacement government next year.
Besides UP, India’s most politically vital state, elections are going to be held in Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur. The BJP rules all the states except Punjab, where the Congress is in power. For the BJP, winning UP may be a crucial test before the 2024 national election.