NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi expanded his council of ministers on Tuesday with a focus on meeting budgetary goals, and improving the lot of farmers, villagers and the poor, and with an eye on crucial Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh next year.
Focussing on “doers and performers”, the PM elevated Minister of state for environment and forests Prakash Javadekar to Cabinet rank and appointed 19 new Ministers of State who took the oath in Rashtrapati Bhavan.
The new inductees’ portfolios are scheduled to be announced at 2 pm on Tuesday. All the new entrants except for Anupriya Singh Patel of the Apna Dal party and Ramdas Athawale of the Republican Party of India are from the BJP. The Shiv Sena, which has been having a fractious relationship with the BJP, was shut out of the expansion and consequently didn’t attend the oath-taking ceremony.
This was PM Modi’s second cabinet expansion. The ministers to be sworn in on Tuesday include five from the Scheduled Castes, two from the Scheduled Tribes, two from minority groups and two women leaders. They hail from UP, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Bengal, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Uttarakhand, Karnataka and Assam.
Some of the 19 new faces have previously served in various state governments, relying on their closer grasp on ground realities. They are former Karnataka Home Minister Ramesh Chandappa Jigajinagi, former Gujarat ministers Purshotam Rupala and Jaswant Sinh Bhabhor, former Gujarat Agro-Industries Corporation chief Mansukh Mandaviya and former Uttar Pradesh Urban Development Minister Mahendra Nath Pandey.
Member of Parliament (MP) from Almora Ajay Tamta and MP from Shahjahanpur, Uttar Pradesh, Krishna Raj represent the Scheduled Castes among Modi’s new ministers.
Other new faces include people with professional expertise. They are PP Chaudhary, a senior Supreme Court advocate; Subhash Ram Rao Bhamre, a well known doctor; author and acclaimed journalist M J Akbar; former Rajasthan officer Arjun Meghwal and Anil Madhav Dave who is a keen Narmada river conservationist.
Two new ministers who were sworn in have experience in the central government. They are Faggan Kulaste and Delhi’s Vijay Goel. The political veterans among those newly inducted are S S Ahluwalia, MP from Darjeeling, and Assam member Rajan Gohain besides Kulaste, Jigajinagi and Goel. Inductees like Pandey , Bhamre and C R Chaudhary have strong academic backgrounds. Social diversity is served by SCs, minority and women members.
In his media interaction on Monday, PM Modi said the expansion will reflect budgetary priorities. While he didn’t spell these out, schemes for rural development, like irrigation and farm insurance, as well as initiatives such as the Mudra bank and start ups are some of these priorities.