Exactly a week after he led the BJP to a decisive victory in the Lok Sabha elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi began his second term after being administered the oath of office by President Ram Nath Kovind in the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan Thursday evening.
Modi was sworn in along with a 57-member Council of Ministers that included his trusted lieutenant and BJP president Amit Shah and a surprise entrant, former Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar, as Cabinet ministers.
Former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj found no place in the new government, as did 36 others from the previous Council of Ministers. Among those excluded are Suresh Prabhu, Maneka Gandhi, Uma Bharti, Mahesh Sharma, Radha Mohan Singh, Rajyavardhan Rathore, Jayant Sinha, Jual Oram and Ram Kripal Yadav.
The new Council of Ministers has 24 Cabinet ministers, 9 Ministers of State with independent charge and 24 Ministers of State. There are a total of 24 new faces — seven hold Cabinet rank, one Minister of State (independent charge) and 16 Ministers of State.
NDA partner JD (U) of Nitish Kumar decided not to join the government, while UP ally Apna Dal led by former minister Anupriya Patel was not given any ministerial berth.
After the swearing-in, Modi tweeted: “Congratulations to all those who took oath today. This team is a blend of youthful energy and administrative experience. It has people who have excelled as Parliamentarians and those who have had distinguished professional careers. Together, we will work for India’s progress.”
He also thanked leaders of the BIMSTEC countries, Mauritius and the Kyrgyz Republic for gracing the ceremony: “The occasion was made even more special by the participation of esteemed world leaders. I thank them for being a part of today’s programme.”
The big entrant in Modi’s second Cabinet is Shah who scripted the BJP’s expansion plan and a series of electoral wins since 2014.
There is no word yet on who will step in to take charge of the party. A strong contender appears to be senior leader and former Health Minister J P Nadda who was not sworn in Thursday.
The portfolios of the new ministers were not announced until midnight and a guessing game was on, inside and outside the party.
Prominent leaders retained in the new Cabinet include Rajnath Singh, Nirmala Sitharaman, Nitin Gadkari, Smriti Irani, Piyush Goyal, Ram Vilas Paswan, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Thaawarchand Gehlot, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Dharmendra Pradhan, Prakash Javadekar and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.
Anantkumar Hegde, a Hindutva leader from Karnataka known for his controversial remarks, was dropped but Giriraj Singh, another firebrand who got re-elected from Begusarai after defeating Kanhaiya Kumar of the CPI, was elevated — from Minister of State to Cabinet rank. Also elevated to Cabinet rank is Gajendra Singh Shekhawat of Jodhpur.
The profile of the new team indicates that seniority and performance in the party have been rewarded, setting priorities for the BJP in the immediate future. With the party focusing on Karnataka, where the ruling combine of Congress and JD-S appears to be shaky, both Modi and Shah have taken extra care in giving it balanced representation — former Chief Minister and Union Minister D V Sadananda Gowda, a prominent Vokkaliga face of the party, Prahlad Joshi, a Brahmin from the Dharwad region which is a BJP stronghold, and Suresh Angadi, a leading Lingayat leader from North Karnataka, have been inducted into the government. Gowda and Joshi have been given Cabinet ranks while Angadi has become an MoS.
Maharashtra, where the party along with Shiv Sena swept the election and will be going to assembly polls later this year, has the highest number of new faces in the Council of Ministers, followed by Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.