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Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Ahead of Cabinet expansion, Health Minister, Education Minister, 10 others resign

Among the big names who have resigned are Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank and Law and Justice, Electronics and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad.

Written by Liz Mathew | New Delhi |
Updated: July 7, 2021 6:00:25 pm
Cabinet reshuffleHarsh Vardhan, Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank and Santosh Gangwar were among the high-profile names who resigned ahead of the Cabinet reshuffle. (File photos)

Hours ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Cabinet expansion on Wednesday, at least 12 ministers have resigned from the council of ministers so far. The big names include Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, Law and Justice, Electronics and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad and Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar.

Other ministers who are out of the Cabinet are Babul Supriyo, Sadananda Gowda, Santosh Gangwar, Debasree Chaudhuri, Rattan Lal Kataria, Sanjay Dhotre, Thawarchand Gehlot, Pratap Chandra Sarangi (MoS) and Ashwini Chaubey (MoS).

Several potential ministers have been arriving at Modi’s residence since morning. Although there is no official word yet on the portfolios of the new members of the council of ministers, those who have reached 7, Lok Kalyan Marg provide an indication to that effect.

The visitors at the PM’s residence include some of the current ministers of state like Anurag Thakur, Parshottam Rupala and G Kishan Reddy who are likely to be elevated. BJP’s senior general secretary Bhupender Yadav is also at the PM’s residence, where both Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP president J P Nadda are already present.

The BJP headquarters had been abuzz with speculation over several names, including some from West Bengal and Maharashtra, who could be out of the Cabinet.

From ally JD (U) RCP Singh is also at 7, Lok Kalyan Marg.

The expansion, expected to be announced at 6 pm today at Rashtrapati Bhawan, is likely to reflect the message of the Prime Minister on women empowerment, sources said.

Among the women MPs who are present at Modi’s residence so far include Meenakshi Lekhi (Delhi), Pritam Munde, Hina Gavit (Maharashtra), Sobha Karandlaje (Karnataka), Sunita Duggal (Haryana) and Pratima Bhaumik (Tripura). Ally Apna Dal’s Anupriya Patel is also expected to be inducted in the revamped council of ministers.

Modi’s cabinet had three women cabinet ministers — Harsimrat Kaur of SAD, Nirmala Sitharaman and Smriti Irani — when it took over in 2019, Harsmirat Kaur , however, quit over the controversial farm laws.

If Sarbananda Sonowal (Assam) and Narayan Rane (Maharashtra) are inducted, the new cabinet is likely to have five former chief ministers, with Rajnath Singh (Uttar Pradesh ), Sadanand Gowda (Karnataka) and Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishak (Uttarakhand), being the other three if they are retained.

Besides women empowerment, among the other priorities for the new government are the representation for Dalits, tribals, backward classes and  minorities. Sources said the new council of ministers will have 12 members from SC communities (including two cabinet ministers), eight Scheduled Tribes leaders and 27 OBC leaders.

After Thawarchand Gehlot, a prominent Dalit face in the government, was appointed as Karnataka Governor, the rejig would give more representation from the SC community. Further criteria, sources said, would be community and geographical aspects.

Sources said there will be five ministers from the minority communities — Muslim, Sikh, Christian, two Buddhists of which three will have cabinet ranks. Communities like Brahmins Kshatriya, Bhumihar, Baniya, Kayasth, Lingayats, etc will have 29 ministers to represent them in the new government, sources added. There will be 14 ministers below the age of 50 in the new CoM.

“The number of women in the rejigged council of ministers will be eleven. The outgoing council of ministers had 61 as the average age, the incoming will be of 58 years,” said the source.

Sources have also indicated that the exercise, the first after Modi returned to power in 2019, would be a cabinet expansion rather than a reshuffle with the Prime Minister being keen on inducting more younger faces and those who are with administrative exercises.

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