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Thursday, August 05, 2021

Cabinet expansion: Eye on Assembly polls, a fifth of new ministers from UP

Seven new ministers — more than one-fifth of the addition of total 36 to the Council of Ministers — are from Uttar Pradesh, taking the total representation from the state to 16.

Written by Liz Mathew | New Delhi |
Updated: July 8, 2021 10:38:53 am
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday handpicked new and young leaders to nurture and energise the sectors ravaged by the pandemic — from health and education to labour, civil aviation, IT and petroleum.

The political prospects of the Bharatiya Janata Party in states where Assembly elections are scheduled next year seem to have weighed heavily as Prime Minister Narendra Modi undertook a massive makeover and expansion of his Council of Ministers.

Seven new ministers — more than one-fifth of the addition of total 36 to the Council of Ministers — are from Uttar Pradesh, taking the total representation from the state to 16. UP goes to polls in early 2022 or less than eight months from now. It is critical for the party in the national elections too given that it brings the biggest chunk of 80 seats or almost 15 per cent to the 543-member strong Lok Sabha. The ministers from UP include Anupriya Patel, Chief of the Apna Dal, a small but key BJP ally in the state.

Similarly, two ministers from Gujarat (Mansukh Mandaviya and Parshottam Rupala) and one from Himachal Pradesh (Anurag Singh Thakur), were elevated. New MoS Chouhan Devusinh, is also an MP from Gujarat’s Kheda Both these states, which are ruled by the BJP now, are poll-bound in the second half of calendar 2022.

Maghubai Chhaghanbhai Patel, a tribal leader of the BJP from Gujarat, was appointed Governor on Tuesday. Darshana Vikram Jardosh, the MP from Surat, a stronghold of the BJP, and worked hard to retain the party dominance following protests from trader community against the GST implementation in 2017 state polls – has also been inducted as an MoS now.

Punjab, a state which is also set to see elections early next year, did not get any additional representation, but Hardeep Singh Puri, a Minister of State, belongs to Sikh community was upgraded to Cabinet rank. Puri, however, is a Rajya Sabha MP from Uttar Pradesh

If Uttarakhand’s Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank lost his Cabinet post, a Brahmin leader from the state, Ajay Bhatt, has now been inducted as a Minister of State. Manipur, another poll bound state also got representation in the revamped Council with the induction of Rajkumar Ranjan Singh, as an MoS.

While Andhra Pradesh, one of the two southern states the BJP leadership is keen to expand the party’s presence, has been given a representation in Tuesday’s gubernatorial appointments.

Modi on Wednesday promoted G Kishan Reddy, a BJP leader from Telangana in the Cabinet expansion. Reddy is seen as the leader both Prime Minister Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah want to field as the party’s face in the state.

Karnataka, another state where the BJP is determined to retain its dominance, has been given adequate representation in the government. On Wednesday, four new ministers – Shobha Karandlaje, Rajeev Chandrashekhar, A Narayanswamy and Bhagwant Khuba from the state were sworn in.

Despite its failure to win in West Bengal, BJP which made impressive gains in 2019 Lok Sabha polls and emerged as the main opposition in the recent state polls, remains the focus of the party. It was evident from the changes it made in the list of ministers. While both Babul Supriyo and Debashree Chaudhury were dropped, the Prime Minister inducted four new ministers – Shantanu Thakur, Nisith Pramanik, John Barla and Dr Subhash Sarkar – in the government.

Another state where the BJP appears to be working hard to return to power is Maharashtra, where it lost power and traditional ally Shiv Sena after the 2020 elections. BJP sources said the leadership would be focusing on the state for political re-alignment and revamp of the state unit. In Wednesday’s reshuffle, four new BJP leaders were sworn in. These include Narayan Rane, who got a Cabinet berth. The others are Kapil Patil, Bharati Pawar and Bhagvat Karad. Senior minister Prakash Javadekar and Sanjay Shamrao Dhotre, both from Maharashtra, were dropped from the Council of Ministers.

It’s not just the geography Modi paid attention to. To ensure that backward classes are adequately represented, the expansion has ensured 12 ministers from the SC community including two with Cabinet rank – Virendra Kumar and Pashu Pati Kumar Paras. There are 27 ministers representing various backward communities across the states.

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