NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday carried out a major shakeup of his ministry with an eye on his image makeover, with a surprise removal of all those whom he perceives as having blunted the image he has painstakingly built over the past seven years, not sparing even his most loyal Ravi Shankar Prasad and Prakash Javadekar.
Next, the real talent will be seen in how he distributes the key portfolios that have become vacant and these include those of the Law Minister, I&B Minister, Health Minister, Education Minister, Information Technology and Communication Minister, Environment Minister and the Labour Minister who will have to bring into force the labour code, as sacking of 20% ministers may make difficult the continuity of governance.
Modi took care not to violate the Constitution, abiding by the 91st Constitutional Amendment in 2003, limiting the numbers of ministers to 15% of the Lok Sabha strength which turns out to be 81. As against the first ministry comprising 53 ministers that he had constituted after winning the second Lok Sabha election in 2019, the new ministry is of 77.
The new ministry has 15 new Cabinet ministers, including seven promoted, and 26 ministers of state (MoS), including seven with independent charge.
The reshuffle was so large that the swearing-in ceremony held on Wednesday evening at the Rashtrapati Bhawan went on for exactly 90 minutes. Those present included Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, as also many ministers who had dropped in during the course of the day to tender their resignations after an hour-long meeting by the Prime Minister at his residence.
In a press communique, the Rashtrapati Bhawan said the President of India, as advised by the Prime Minister, has accepted the resignations of 12 members of the Council of Ministers, with immediate effect. They are: D.V. Sadananda Gowda; Ravi Shankar Prasad; Thawarchand Gehlot; Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank;’ Dr. Harsh Vardhan; Prakash Javadekar; Santosh Kumar Gangwar; Babul Supriyo; Dhotre Sanjay Shamrao; Rattan Lal Kataria; Pratap Chandra Sarangi; and Su Debasree Chaudhuri.
A top BJP source said Prasad and Javadekar will be soon inducted into the organisation and asked to get cracking and prepare the party for the next round of Assembly elections in six states next year, including Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.
The swearing-in ceremony began with administration of oath of office and secrecy first to former Maharashtra chief minister Narayan Rane and then to former Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal, followed by Dr Virendra Kumar of Madhya Pradesh, Jyotiraditya Scindia, who brought down the Congress government in the state, and so on.
BJP general secretary Bhupender Yadav (51), who took the oath as the 12th Cabinet minister, is a close aide of Home Minister Amit Shah. He is tipped to take over as the Law Minister, the post vacated by Ravi Shankar Prasad. Hailing from Ajmer, he represents Rajasthan in the Rajya Sabha; he is a senior advocate and best equipped to handle the portfolio most efficiently.
The Gujarat Assembly elections are also due towards the end of 2022 and so PM Modi has inducted Mrs Darshana Vikram Jardosh and Chauhan Devusinh as MoS. Uttarakhand BJP president Ajay Bhatt (60), a Lok Sabha member, has been inducted as a MoS; Uttarakhand also goes to polls early next year along with UP.
Besides Narayan Rane, three others from Maharashtra have been inducted in the ministry. They are: Kapil Patil (60), a 2-term MP from Bhiwadi, Dr Bharati Pravin Pawar (42) from Dindori and Dr Dr Bharati Pravin Pawar (65).
With the Akali Dal and the Shiv Sena pulling out of the NDA government, the only ally in the ministry was the Republican Party of India (RPI) represented by Ramdas Athawale. Those sworn in on Wednesday include Janata Dal(U) national president R C P Singh (63), a Rajya Sabha member, Apana Dal of UP, whose Anupriya Singh Patel (40) was also a MoS in the first Modi government, and Lok Sabha MP Pashu Pati Kumar Paras(68) of the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP).