The much-awaited cabinet expansion is afoot. However, the first reshuffle in the Council of Ministers by Prime Minister Narendra Modi since he assumed charge for a second term in May 2019, is unpacking many unexpected moves, from the resignation of notable ministers to the induction of newer faces.
While Modi is bringing in young faces and giving representation to various social groups and regions in the reshuffle, some older guns have been elevated from their previous posts.
Here are the top five surprises of this cabinet reshuffle:
1) Resignation of Harsh Vardhan, Ravi Shankar Prasad Among Others
Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal “Nishank" and Chemicals and Fertilisers Minister D V Sadananda Gowda were among several Union ministers who resigned on Wednesday ahead of the cabinet reshuffle in the evening. Health Minister Vardhan, whose handling of the COVID-19 crisis, among a devastating second wave that saw citizens struggle for oxygen and healthcare facilities, had drawn flak from the opposition parties. Vardhan, a doctor himself, had been in charge of the health ministry as well as the science and technology ministry as the COVID pandemic broke, and then India worked to develop vaccines.
Ravi Shankar Prasad was spearheading the government’s new IT rules for which the government is at loggerheads with Twitter. Prakash Javadekar’s departure from this ministry was also unexpected, given he was also the government’s spokesperson.
2) Jyotiraditya’s Induction
Jyotiraditya Scindia has now made a comeback in the Union Cabinet. This time, and for the first time, as an NDA leader. In March 2020, 22 MLAs of Congress led by Scindia resigned from the party and crossed over to the BJP, leading to the collapse of the then Kamal Nath-led government in Madhya Pradesh, which paved the way for the BJP to return to power again.
Scindia had remained tight-lipped about speculations that he might be inducted in the Union cabinet during its expansion and said he had no information about the same.
3) Pashupati Paras’ Induction Amid Chirag’s Anger
Pashupati Paras of the NDA’s Lok Janshakti Party has also joined the Cabinet, prompting an outburst from his estranged nephew, Chirag Paswan, who said he had written to the Prime Minister requesting that he not appoint Paras as a Minister in his administration based on the LJP quota. Following the death of LJP founder Ram Vilas Paswan, the slot became vacant, amid a split in the party as well.
“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,” Chirag had said.
Seven MoS plus independent charges are also set for elevation. Hardeep Singh Puri, Anurag Thakur, Kishan G Reddy are among these names that have taken their oaths into the new council of ministers.
5) Sarbananda Sonowal’s Induction
After the Assam elections this year, after which BJP formed the government again, Himanta Biswa Sarma was appointed as the state’s chief minister of former CM Sarbananda Sonowal, amid speculations at the time of his induction into a Central position.
Sonowal has now been inducted into the Union Cabinet.