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Power gets concentrated in fewer hands after Modi govt loses one more minister

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Ananth Kumar’s portfolios given to Sadananda Gowda and Narendra Tomar, triggering criticism that power remains concentrated in a few hands in Modi govt.

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi Tuesday distributed the late Ananth Kumar’s portfolios between D.V. Sadananda Gowda and Narendra Singh Tomar, giving them additional charge of chemicals & fertilisers and parliamentary affairs respectively.

In doing so, Modi yet again avoided a cabinet reshuffle or expansion. Since assuming office in May 2014, Modi has expanded his council of ministers only three times — on 9 November 2014, 5 July 2016 and 3 September 2017.

Minister of state for external affairs M.J. Akbar resigned a month ago, after being accused by multiple women of sexual harassment in his time as a journalist, but no replacement has been announced yet.

The chemicals & fertilisers ministry had also been functioning without a minister since September, when Ananth Kumar went away for his medical treatment.

The opposition Congress, meanwhile, alleged that this was another example of the Prime Minister’s Office running the show, rendering ministers irrelevant.

Also read: Ananth Kumar’s demise a big setback for BJP’s Karnataka 2019 plans

Glut of portfolios

Gowda and Tomar have now joined the growing list of ministers who hold multiple portfolios. Gowda was already minister of statistics and programme implementation, while Tomar held the portfolios of rural development, panchayati raj and mines.

On top of the list is Nitin Gadkari, the minister of road transport & highways, as well as shipping, who was given the additional portfolios of water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation after Uma Bharati was divested of them in September 2017.

After the Telugu Desam Party quit the ruling National Democratic Alliance in March this year, Ashok Gajapathi Raju’s civil aviation portfolio was given to commerce and industry minister Suresh Prabhu.

When Rajiv Pratap Rudy was dropped from the government, his portfolio of skill development and entrepreneurship was given as additional charge to petroleum and natural gas minister Dharmendra Pradhan.

The last minister to die in office was Anil Madhav Dave in May 2017. His portfolios of environment, forest and climate change were given to Dr Harsh Vardhan, who was already in charge of science & technology and earth sciences.

Also read: Ananth Kumar, a skillful administrator and a political heavyweight

Why this decision?

“Elections are just a few months away. There was no point going for a cabinet expansion or a full-fledged reshuffle for such a short period,” a union minister told ThePrint on the condition of anonymity.

However, senior Congress leader and former union minister Manish Tewari said: “This government is run by two people: the prime minister and the BJP president. There’s also trust deficit within the party, and hence they prefer to put power in fewer hands.

“It also shows that they don’t trust the abilities of their own people or there is definitely a lack of quality.”

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