Union Heath Minister Harsh Vardhan
Union Heath Minister Harsh Vardhan
ANI Photo

Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan and his Minister of State Ashwini Kumar Choubey, as also the high-profile Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal and his MoS Sanjay Shamrao Dhotre, were among the 15 ministers who have been shown the door in the first reshuffle effected by Prime Minister Modi in the NDA 2.0 government. Sources said some more may be asked to go.

Even more shocking were the resignations of Law and Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and I&B Minister and Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, whom Modi had assigned multiple portfolios. They were also known to go out of the way to defend PM Modi on every issue.

A big name who has been kicked upstairs is Thawar Chand Gehlot: he has been made the Karnataka Governor.

It is understood that PM Modi decided to drop the ministers after performance appraisal exercise for over a month. Those who finally fell by the wayside include seven high-ranking cabinet ministers.

The sources said the list of those dropped may go beyond 15, since some of them were not in the national capital and the Prime Minister had sought the resignations in person.

The Prime Minister seems to have faulted Prasad and Javadekar for allowing his popularity ratings to dip in the international media by pushing the new Information Technology rules brought in to gag the social media.

These were the two leaders who had carved out a plan to manage public perception on the completion of the government’s first two years with the help of like-minded journalists, but the exercise boomeranged, with Modi clearly miffed at the daily brickbats.

The Congress was quick to respond that the removal of both the health minister and his deputy was a virtual confession that the Modi government had utterly failed to manage the pandemic. Likewise, the removal of the two ministers in the Education Ministry was a candid admission of the ham-handed manner in which the examination schedules and the education policy had been steered during the pandemic.

Former finance minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram said the lesson for the ministers is that "if things go right, the credit will go to the PM, but if things go wrong, the minister will be the fall guy." He said that this ‘‘is the price the ministers pay for implicit obedience and unquestioning subservience," Chidambaram said on Twitter.

Another senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said the PM has made Dr Vardhan "a scapegoat for the monumental failures at the highest level -- nowhere else" -- as everyone knows that it is the PMO which takes decisions on behalf of all ministries and makes them execute them without Dr Vardhan, an MP from Delhi, had no inkling about his removal until he got a phone call from the PMO asking him to submit his resignation. He was, in fact, in an official meeting and deliberating on new steps to be taken to deal with the pandemic when he got the shocking call. He was also handling the ministries of science and technology.

The others who were asked to resign include Labour Minister Santosh Gangwar, who is from Uttar Pradesh. His fault was that he went public and criticised Chief Minister Yogi Adityanth for the Covid mismanagement in the state. Also ousted is Chemicals Minister D V Sadananda Gowda, who was faulted for failing to procure medicines on time to meet the Covid-19 challenge.

The ministers of state who have quit include Babul Supriyo (environment), apparently for not helping the BJP in the Assembly elections in his state of West Bengal; Pratap Sarangi (fisheries) and Debashree Chaudhuri, also from West Bengal; Rao Saheb Danve Patil, and Rattan Lal Kataria.

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