Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday expanded his council of ministers inducting 21 new faces, keeping in view of his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s political calculations in the states and balancing the regional aspirations. Although there was an attempt to get more representation from its allies, its oldest and key partner Shiv Sena did a last-minute pull out and boycotted the swearing-in ceremony held at Rashtrapati Bhavan.
The strength of Modi’s cabinet, which was promised to be kept in minimum and focus on maximum governance, is now 66.
Despite Shiv Sena’s boycott of the function, its leader Suresh Prabhu, who was a minister in the previous NDA government took oath as a cabinet minister. BJP sources said Prabhu, who enjoys the confidence of the PM, has been given the ministerial berth from the BJP’s quota.Prabhu has joined the BJP on Sunday morning
Manohar Parrikar, who has resigned as Goa Chief Minister on Saturday, senior BJP leader J P Nadda and Choudhury Birendra Sing, a prominent Jat leader who has joined the BJP from the Congress just ahead of the Lok Sabha election, were sworn in as cabinet ministers.
Parrikar will be the defense minister in the Modi cabinet. Induction of Nadda, believed to be close to BJP chief Amit Shah, has surprised many as the leader who was expected to represent Himachal Pradesh in Sunday’s expansion was Anurag Thakur, a prominent young face of the BJP from the state.
Senior party leader Bandaru Dattatreya, first leader from Telangana after it became a separate state, Rajiv Pratap Rudy, BJP general secretary and an MP from Bihar and Mahesh Sharma, Gautam Buddh Nagar MP and a doctor by profession have taken oath Ministers of State (Independent charge).
Mukhtar Abbaz Naqvi, one of the two front row Muslim leaders of the BJP has been inducted into the council of ministers.
The expansion brought more diversity into the almost six-months-old government. Olympian shooter and ex-Armyman Rajyavardhan Rathore from Rajasthan, Ram Kripal Yadav, a former RJD leader who joined the BJP in the eve of elections, Sanwal Lal Jat who had defeated former Congress minister Sachin Pilot and who had refused to resign his state ministerial post even after he took oath as a parliamentarian, Giriraj Singh, the MP from Bihar whose comments against minority had become controversial, Jayant Sinha a Harvard-educated investor and son of former union minister Yashwant Sinha, Vijay Sampla, a Dalit leader from Punjab were taken in as junior ministers. In West Bengal, where the BJP is keen to alter political equations and position itself as the alternative force, the PM has chosen singer-turned-MP Babul Supriyo and from Uttar Pradesh, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, the only woman who took oath on Sunday.
Others who took oath as ministers of state were Y S Chowdhary, a close aide of TDP leader and Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu, Ramshankar Katheria (Uttar Pradesh), Hansraj Ahir (Maharashtra) Mohan Kundariya (Gujarat), Haribhai Parthibhai Chaudhary (Gujarat).
Majority of the ministers seemed to have been handpicked by the Prime Minister himself as most of them are known for their loyalty to him.
While Bihar, which got three more members in the government, will go to assembly polls in 2015, West Bengal is to elect a new government in 2016.
The Congress-led UPA government had 73 ministers in May this year, when it was defeated by the BJP in the general elections. The UPA-I and UPA-II led by Manmohan Singh began with over 50 ministers and at some stage the maximum strength was 78.
Before the swearing-in ceremony, the PM has given them a brief message over a tea at his official residence.
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