21 new faces join Team Modi

Mon 10 Nov 2014
New Delhi, November 10, 2014 (Agencies) Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday night effected major changes in his council of ministers that saw the induction of 21 new faces, including four Cabinet ministers and reshuffle of key portfolios. Former Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar was given defence portfolio and former Shiv Sena leader Suresh Prabhu became the new railway minister in place of D V Sadananda Gowda who was shifted to law and justice portfolio.  Finance Minister Arun Jaitley who was freed of the defence portfolio to focus on the budget and reforms to revive the economy, was also given charge of the Information and Broadcasting. Prakash Javadekar, who was earlier handling the I&B Ministry also, will be in charge of only the Environment Ministry.

Gowda’s Cabinet colleague Ravi Shankar Prasad, who was handling law and justice earlier, will now concentrate on telecom sector, which is Modi's priority. Till date, Prasad as handling the law portfolio, for which Jaitley was also consulted often. Another Cabinet entrant, Birendra Singh, ex-general secretary of Congress, was entrusted with rural development, which was held as additional charge by Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari since the death of Gopinath Munde in May. Singh was also given charge of water and sanitation. BJP general secretary J P Nadda, who also made it to the Cabinet, was given health portfolio, in place of Dr Harsh Vardhan who was given science and technology.

Among the new Ministers of State (Independent charge), Rajiv Pratap Rudy was appointed Minister of State (MoS) for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship and Parliamentary Affairs. The lone minister from Telangana, Bandaru Dattatreya, got the charge of labour and employment while Uttar Pradesh’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Mahesh Sharma got charge of culture and tourism, besides as MoS Civil Aviation.
Another new ministers of state Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi was handed the portfolio of minority affairs as well as parliamentary affairs, while Ram Kirpal Yadav, one-time aide of Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Lalu Prasad, was appointed MoS drinking water and sanitation. The portfolios of the new ministers were announced late in the night indicating that Modi was still fine-tuning the allocation of work for optimum performance of his team.
In what was his first expansion of his government, Modi took on board several Dalit and backward class leaders to expand social representation in his government, eyeing Assembly elections in Bihar, West Bengal and UP in the next one to three years.

However, the Sena struck a strong discordant note, refusing the BJP offer of just a minister of state post, taking their ties to the edge of the precipice due to the stalemate over sharing of portfolios in the new government in Maharashtra. A couple of hours before the swearing-in ceremony, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray recalled party MP Anil Desai after he had landed in Delhi to reach Rashtrapati Bhavan, stating he was miffed at his being given an MoS berth. The BJP ignored his demand that Modi speak to him.

Rashtrapati Bhavan, in a statement later, said Anil Desai could not be administered the oath of office and secrecy as he was not available for the purpose. Adding to the strained BJP-Sena ties, Prabhu, who was power minister in the Vajpayee government, joined the BJP on Sunday morning to take oath as a Cabinet minister. An upset Thackeray announced that his party was even ready to sit in the opposition in Maharashtra if the BJP counted on the support of the Nationalist Congress Party to sustain the Devendra Fadnavis government. But he stopped short of pulling out Anant Geete, the lone Sena minister in Modi's Cabinet. In all, four Cabinet Ministers, three ministers of state with independent charges were inducted. Fourteen MoS were also included. The strength of Modi’s Cabinet, which Modi had wanted to be kept in minimum with the focus on maximum governance, increased to 66 on Sunday.

Significantly, Modi showed that he widened his search for fresh ministerial talent, by inducting Olympic silver medallist Rajyavardhan Rathore and Bollywood Singer Babul Supriyo, both first time MPs. BJP's Vijay Sampla, a Dalit MP from Punjab who began life as a plumber, and YS Chowdary of the Telugu Desam Party, whose declared wealth is worth Rs 190 crore, were also made ministers of state. Modi also chose Jayant Sinha, son of former finance minister Yashwant Sinha . Jayant, who has studied at IIT-Delhi and at Harvard in the US, was made MoS for Finance.

With four new ministers , the number of nominees from UP where the BJP won 73 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats reached 13. They included Modi himself, who represents Varanasi, Rajnath Singh, Uma Bharti and  Kalraj Mishra. Bihar's representation increased to eight, with the inclusion of three ministers. It has the second highest representation after Uttar Pradesh. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance had won 31 of the 40 Lok Sabha seats in the state. Six ministers were inducted in May from Maharashtra, including Gopinath Munde, Nitin Gadkari, Anant Geete (Shiv Sena), Prakash Javadekar, Piyush Goel and Rao Saheb Danve. Munde died in a road accident here in June. With the induction of Suresh Prabhu and Hansraj Ahir, Maharashtra's strength in the Cabinet went up to seven. 

Modi did not ignore Gujarat whose number went up to five. He inducted Haribhai Parthibhai Chaudhury and Mohanbhai Kalyanjibhai Kundariya as ministers of state.
Taking into account the complaint that Rajasthan, which had given 25 MPs to the BJP, was not represented adequately, Modi chose Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and Sanwar Lal Jat. West Bengal got a representative with the inclusion of Babul Supriyo into the ministry.
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