A fortnight short of completing six months as Prime Minister, Narendra Modi expanded his Cabinet today keeping the imperatives of both governance and politics in mind. So as he brought in 21 new faces and effected changes in the leadership of key ministries, his political calculations in his choice of ministers was also aimed at spreading the party’s footprint in crucial states heading to polls.
The most significant changes in today’s reshuffle were the shifting of D V Sadananda Gowda from the high-profile Railways to Law and Justice — his job was given to BJP’s latest import and PM’s trusted G20 sherpa Suresh Prabhu — and induction of former Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar as Defence Minister. Health Minister Harsh Vardhan was shifted to low-profile Science and Technology, Earth Sciences but this move is being viewed as a move to make him the face of BJP’s Delhi Assembly campaign when elections are held early next year. His place in the Health MInistry has been allocated to J P Nadda.
Finance and Corporate Affairs Minister Arun Jaitley, who hands over the Defence Ministry to former Goa CM Manohar Parrikar, maintains his pre-eminent position in the government, taking on Information and Broadcasting from Prakash Javadekar. Former Army chief Gen V K Singh, who had a spate of tussles with successive secretaries has been relieved of the charge of Development of North-Eastern Region while Gautam Budh Nagar MP Mahesh Sharma, considered close to the RSS, was made Minister of State (Independent charge), Culture and Tourism as well as MoS, Civil Aviation.
Among the Cabinet ministers, Nitin Gadkari has been relieved of Rural Development which will now be handled by Birender Singh, who will also be Minister of Panchayati Raj, Drinking Water and Sanitation, while Communications and Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has been relieved of Law and Justice.
On the political front, the expansion lays down a roadmap for the party to establish itself as a credible alternative to entrenched parties in states where the BJP isn’t the main player, including Bihar and Punjab where it is part of the ruling alliance with the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal).
This probably explains why a figure as controversial as Bihar leader Giriraj Singh, a Bhumihar, who was among the first leaders to lend his voice to the Modi-as-PM chant and who said that Modi’s critics should go to Pakistan, has been rewarded with the post of minister of state.
The expansion was overshadowed by the pullout of the BJP’s oldest ally Shiv Sena. Miffed over Modi’s decision to induct one of its leaders, Suresh Prabhu, without its consent, the Sena stopped its member Anil Desai from joining the government. Prabhu quit the Sena and joined the BJP hours before he took oath as a cabinet minister.
Modi has also tried to balance caste equations, especially in states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, which go to polls over the next three years. Thus, a minister of state (independent charge) to a Brahmin — Gautam Buddha Nagar MP Mahesh Sharma — is a signal to Brahmins of Uttar Pradesh who are disenchanted with both BSP and the Samajwadi Party and are unable to find any solace in the Congress.
An eye on the future is one reason for the induction of Agra MP Ram Shankar Katheria and Fatehpur MP Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, one a Dalit and the other belonging to the electorally powerful Nishad community. From West Bengal, Modi did not choose old party hand S S Ahluwalia but went for Babul Supriyo, a singer-turned politician — whom he had promised, during his campaign, to make a national hero. Mohanbhai Kalyanjibhai Kundariya and Haribhai Parthibhai Chaudhary, both from Gujarat, have been Modi’s loyal soldiers for long.
Between the two prominent Muslim faces in the BJP, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi was handpicked but parked in the Minority Affairs Ministry as MoS with additional charge of Parliamentary Affairs.
The surprise induction of Hoshiarpur MP Vijay Sampla as MoS is another indication that the party is planning on life without the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal). Sampla, a Dalit, is expected to be part of the BJP’s efforts to become a major anti-SAD, anti-Congress force in the state which has the nation’s highest percentage of Dalit population — about 32 per cent.
Modi and the BJP will not easily forget, or let the Akalis forget, the fact that despite being in alliance at the Centre as well as in Punjab, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his party’s frontline leadership campaigned for Om Prakash Chautala’s Indian National Lok Dal in the recent Haryana Assembly elections, which the BJP won.
Caste equations also seemed to have played a part in the choice of Sanwar Lal Jat and Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore (a Rajput) as ministers from Rajasthan, which continues to be without a Cabinet-rank representation at the Centre despite the fact that all 25 seats went to the BJP.
A Cabinet berth to J P Nadda, a Modi loyalist, is also a subtle hint to party’s Himachal Pradesh strongman Prem Kumar Dhumal’s camp that Nadda is the party’s future in the state. Dhumal’s son and third-term MP from Hamirpur Anurag Thakur was also in reckoning for a ministerial berth but was overlooked.
The induction of former Congress leader Birender Singh, who switched sides just before the Assemly elections is to placate the Jat community since the BJP decided on a non-Jat Punjabi as Haryana’s chief minister.
BJP’s ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), also had its fingerprints on the reshuffle. Hansraj Gangaram Ahir (Maharashtra), the four-time MP from Chandrapur, the whistle blower in the coal block allocation scam is considered to be close to RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. The Sangh is believed to have strongly weighed in for Parrikar, Nadda, Giriraj Singh, Dattatreya, Sharma and Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti.
Here is a complete list of the Union Cabinet
1. Shri Rajnath Singh: Home Affairs
2. Smt. Sushma Swaraj: External Affairs, Overseas Indian Affairs
3. Shri Arun Jaitley: Finance, Corporate Affairs, Information & Broadcasting
4. Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu: Urban Development, Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, Parliamentary Affairs
5. Shri Nitin Jairam Gadkari: Road Transport and Highways, Shipping
6. Shri Manohar Parrikar: Defence
7. Shri Suresh Prabhu: Railways
8. Shri D.V. Sadananda Gowda: Law & Justice
9. Sushri Uma Bharati: Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation
10. Dr. Najma A. Heptulla: Minority Affairs
11. Shri Ramvilas Paswan: Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution
12. Shri Kalraj Mishra: Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises
13. Smt. Maneka Sanjay Gandhi: Women and Child Development
14. Shri Ananthkumar: Chemicals and Fertilizers
15. Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad: Communications and Information Technology
16. Shri Jagat Prakash Nadda: Health & Family Welfare
17. Shri Ashok Gajapathi Raju Pusapati: Civil Aviation
18. Shri Anant Geete: Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises
19. Smt. Harsimrat Kaur Badal: Food Processing Industries
20. Shri Narendra Singh Tomar: Mines, Steel
21. Shri Chaudhary Birender Singh: Rural Development, Panchayati Raj, Drinking Water and Sanitation
22. Shri Jual Oram: Tribal Affairs
23. Shri Radha Mohan Singh: Agriculture
24. Shri Thaawar Chand Gehlot: Social Justice and Empowerment
25. Smt. Smriti Zubin Irani: Human Resource Development
26. Dr. Harsh Vardhan: Science and Technology, Earth Sciences
MINISTERS OF STATE
27. General V.K. Singh: Statistics and Programme Implementation (Independent Charge), External Affairs, Overseas Indian Affairs
28. Shri Inderjit Singh Rao: Planning (Independent Charge), Defence
29. Shri Santosh Kumar Gangwar: Textiles (Independent Charge)
30. Shri Bandaru Dattatreya: Labour and Employment (Independent Charge)
31. Shri Rajiv Pratap Rudy: Skill Development & Entrepreneurship (Independent Charge), Parliamentary Affairs
32. Shri Shripad Yesso Naik: AAYUSH (Independent Charge), Health & Family Welfare
33. Shri Dharmendra Pradhan: Petroleum and Natural Gas (Independent Charge)
34. Shri Sarbananda Sonowal: Youth Affairs and Sports (Independent Charge)
35. Shri Prakash Javadekar: Environment, Forest and Climate Change (Independent Charge)
36. Shri Piyush Goyal: Power (Independent Charge), Coal (Independent Charge), New and Renewable Energy (Independent Charge)
37. Dr. Jitendra Singh: Development of North Eastern Region (Independent Charge), Prime Minister’s Office, Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions, Department of Atomic Energy, Department of Space
38. Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman: Commerce and Industry (Independent Charge)
39. Dr. Mahesh Sharma: Culture (Independent Charge), Tourism (Independent Charge), Civil Aviation
40. Shri Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi: Minority Affairs, Parliamentary Affairs
41. Shri Ram Kripal Yadav: Drinking Water & Sanitation
42. Shri Haribhai Parthibhai Chaudhary: Home Affairs
43. Shri Sanwar Lal Jat: Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation
44. Shri Mohanbhai Kalyanjibhai Kundariya: Agriculture
45. Shri Giriraj Singh: Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises
46. Shri Hansraj Gangaram Ahir: Chemicals & Fertilizers
47. Shri G.M. Siddeshwara: Heavy Industries & Public Enterprises
48. Shri Manoj Sinha: Railways
49. Shri Nihalchand: Panchayati Raj
50. Shri Upendra Kushwaha: Human Resource Development
51. Shri Radhakrishnan P.: Road Transport & Highways, Shipping
52. Shri Kiren Rijiju: Home Affairs
53. Shri Krishan Pal: Social Justice & Empowerment
54. Dr. Sanjeev Kumar Balyan: Agriculture
55. Shri Manuskhbhai Dhanjibhai Vasava: Tribal Affairs
56. Shri Raosaheb Dadarao Danve: Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution
57. Shri Vishnu Deo Sai: Mines, Steel
58. Shri Sudarshan Bhagat: Rural Development
59. Prof. (Dr.) Ram Shankar Katheria: Human Resource Development
60. Shri Y.S. Chowdary: Science and Technology, Earth Science
61. Shri Jayant Sinha: Finance
62. Col. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore: Information & Broadcasting
63. Shri Babul Supria (Babul Supriyo) Baral: Urban Development, Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation
64. Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti: Food Processing Industries
65. Shri Vijay Sampla: Social Justice & Empowerment
(With inputs from pib.nic.in)