Twenty ministers today took oath of office and five quit. Of the 20, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar was elevated to the Cabinet rank, while the rest were sworn in as ministers of state. The portfolios will be known later in the day. The five which have quit are all ministers of state (MoS). These are MoS Panchayati Raj Nihalchand, MoS Agriculture Mohanbhai Kundariya, MoS Water Resources Sanwar Lal Jat, MoS Tribal Affairs Mansukhbhai Vasava and MoS Human Resource Development Ram Shankar Katheria.
With this, the council of ministers, including the prime minister, is now 78 strong. According to a constitutional bar, the size of the council of ministers cannot be 15% of the Lok Sabha strength or 82. In its 2014 Lok Sabha manifesto, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had promised 'maximum governance, minimum government'. On 26 May, 2014, a 45 member council of ministers, apart from the prime minister, was sworn in. As many as 21 more members were added in the Cabinet expansion in November 2014.
Of those who have quit, Nihalchand, an MP from Rajasthan, was not only considered a non-performer who spent little time in Delhi but the party was embarrassed because of an old charge of alleged rape against him. The government has kept the caste balance by including Arjun Ram Meghwal, also a Dalit MP from Rajasthan, in the Cabinet. Meghwal is a retired Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer.
Kundariya was also considered a non-performer, as was Vasava, while Jat is keeping unwell. Jat couldn't travel across India to spread the message of the government's two years performance during the 'vikas parva' because of ill health. Jat is a Lok Sabha MP from Ajmer in Rajasthan. Kundariya represents the Rajkot Lok Sabha seat and Vasava is from Bharuch seat, both in Gujarat.
Of the new members, there are three each from Rajasthan and Gujarat. From Rajasthan, the new ministers are Meghwal, CR Chaudhary and PP Chaudhary. New ministers from Rajasthan are Parshottam Rupala, Jaswant Singh Bhabhor and Mansukh Lal Mandaviya. Bhabhor is a tribal, Rupala an OBC Kushwaha while Mandaviya is from the Patel community. Mandaviya's selection is to assuage the community that has been demanding job quotas and BJP fears its Patel support base slipping away. Vijay Goel, while a political leader of Delhi, is a Rajya Sabha member from Rajasthan.
Katheria is an MP from Uttar Pradesh's Agra Lok Sabha seat. He is a Dalit. Katheria has been in news for his controversial statements that have embarrassed the government. Katheria is the junior HRD minister but his equation with HRD Minister Smriti Irani has been prickly.
Apart from this, two members from minority communities – SS Ahluwalia and MJ Akbar – were sworn in as were five Dalits — Meghwal, Ramesh Jigjinagi from Karnataka, Ajay Tamta from Uttarakhand, Krishna Raj from Uttar Pradesh and Ramdas Athawale from Maharashtra. The two women sworn in are Krishna Raj and Anupriya Patel, both from Uttar Pradesh.
With an eye on forthcoming assembly polls to Uttar Pradesh, as many as three new ministers are from the northern state — Mahendra Nath Pandey, Anupriya Patel and Krishna Raj. Pandey is a Brahmin, Raj is a Dalit and Patel an OBC. Now, there are as many as 15 or a fifth, in the council of ministers from Uttar Pradesh.
The big surprise was the non-elevation of ministers Piyush Goyal and Dharmendra Pradhan. The two currently have independent charge of their portfolios. Aspirations of leaders like Yogi Adityanath were also punctured. Sacking of Katheria and non-inclusion of Adityanath suggests that Prime Minister Modi doesn't want his party MPs to indulge in controversial statements.
While caste and regional balance has been kept in mind, there is also a stress on getting experienced talent into the council of ministers. The PM is unhappy with performance of several of his ministers. Several of those brought in are experienced administrators, having spent years as ministers handling a variety of portfolios at the state level or are experts of their fields.
Rupala, Jigjinaga, Pandey, Goel, Anil Madhav Dave, Jaswant Singh Bhabhor, Tamta, Meghwal, Mandaviya, Athawale, Faggan Singh Kulaste and Ahluwalia have all served as ministers either in the Union government or in the states. PP Chaudhary is a Supreme Court advocate while Akbar is a renowned journalist.