Ahead of a much-anticipated Cabinet reshuffle.
Presaging a much anticipated Cabinet reshuffle at the Centre, Rashtrapati Bhawan announced a slew of gubernatorial appointments, including that of social justice and empowerment minister Thawarchand Gehlot as governor of Karnataka replacing Vajubhai Vala. This was the surest sign that a Cabinet reshuffle, regularly postponed since the COVID19 outbreak in 2020, will finally come to pass as early as Wednesday evening or Thursday morning.
Apart from Mr Gehlot, among the fresh appointees as governors to states are former MP and former BJP president of the erstwhile combined state of Andhra Pradesh K Hari Babu as governor of Mizoram, senior BJP leader and former tribal affairs minister in Gujarat state Mangubhai Patel as governor of Madhya Pradesh and former Speaker of the Goa Assembly Rajendra Arlekar as governor of Himachal Pradesh. Mr Arlekar is the first Goankar to be made governor in the state’s history.
Several governors have seen a change in States, including former Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya who has been transferred from Himachal Pradesh to Haryana, senior BJP leader from Chattisgarh Ramesh Bais who has been moved from Tripura to Jharkhand, Satyadev Arya has been transferred from Haryana to Tripura and BJP leader from Kerala S Sreedharan Pillai has been transferred from Mizoram to Goa.
Big rejig in govt
While it is a fairly extensive rejig in terms of Raj Bhawan’s, sources said that the Cabinet rejig will be extensive as well. The Modi council of ministers has around 28 vacancies, with only 53 of the 81 slots allowed under the Constitution occupied, government sources said that as many as 20 new faces will be included, and in total around 24 ministers belonging to the Other Backward Classes (OBC) communities will find representation in the council of ministers at the end of this exercise. “Among these 20 new faces will be very young MPs, bringing down the average age of the council of ministers to probably its lowest ever since independence,” said a senior government source. While names were not discussed, sources did specify that equal focus will be paid on professional qualifications of ministers as well as community representation issues. “You will have MBAs, post graduates, PhDs and many will be from the scheduled caste, scheduled tribes, OBC and also women,” said the source.
The Modi government came under attack during the second wave of the COVID19 pandemic for its handling of the situation, leading Prime Minister Modi to undertake an elaborate assessment of his council of ministers, with long meetings, presentations etc. Former chief ministers and MPs who have had administrative experience in other states will be part of the new Cabinet. Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal and former deputy chief minister of Bihar Sushil Kumar Modi are expected to be included in the Cabinet, as is former Union minister Jyotiraditya Scindia.
Allies and their issues
NDA ally Lok Janshakti Party’s Pashupati Paras is also tipped to be included in the Cabinet, setting off an angry tirade from his estranged nephew Chirag Paswan, who said he had written to Prime Minister Modi not to appoint Mr Paras as a minister in his government on the LJP quota. The slot became vacant after the passing of LJP founder Ram Vilas Paswan, which also plunged the party into a split. “Making him (Pashupati Paras) a Union minister on LJP quota isn’t possible as the party’s executive board expelled him. I have informed the Prime Minister through a letter. If he is appointed then I shall go to court,” he said.
The Janata Dal (U) was also bargaining for more slots than they had been promised, which was basically one Cabinet post and a minister of state berth, the party wanted two Cabinet berths. Late evening talks were being held between JD(U) national president and MP R C P Singh and the BJP national leadership in Delhi at the time of writing.
Road to Delhi
Delhi, meanwhile saw an influx of candidates likely to take oath as ministers. Apart from Mr Scindia, Mr Paras and Mr Sonowal, sources told The Hindu that former chief minister of Maharashtra and currently BJP supported Rajya Sabha MP, Narayan Rane, has been asked to come to Delhi. Mr Rane expected to meet home minister Amit Shah.
Rejig is not the end
The extensive Cabinet rejig and gubernatorial shuffle will not be the end of political appointments as Mr Gehlot’s exit from the council of ministers also means that the BJP will have to look for another Leader of the House for the Rajya Sabha, and another member for the party’s parliamentary board, its highest decision making body.