New Delhi: There were many high-profile ministers who put in their papers Wednesday as they were dropped ahead of the Modi government’s big-ticket Cabinet reshuffle — the first since it returned to office in May 2019.
Six Cabinet ministers, one Minister of State (Independent charge) and six other Ministers of State (MoS) have tendered their resignation. President Ram Nath Kovind, as advised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has accepted their resignation, a communique from Rashtrapati Bhavan said.
The six Cabinet ministers are Ravi Shankar Prasad (law, communications, and electronics and information technology), Prakash Javadekar (environment and information and broadcasting), Dr Harsh Vardhan (health), Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ (education), D.V. Sadananda Gowda (chemical and fertilizers), and Thaawar Chand Gehlot, 73 (social justice and empowerment). Gehlot has been appointed Karnataka Governor.
Others who have resigned include Minister of State (Independent charge) Santosh Gangwar (labour). Ministers of State Debasree Chaudhuri (women and child development), Dhotre Sanjay Shamrao (three portfolios, including education and communications), Pratap Sarangi (two portfolios, including fisheries, animal husbandry and dairying), Rattan Lal Kataria (two ministries, jal shakti, and social justice and empowerment), Babul Supriyo (environment), and Ashwini Kumar Chaubey (health) have also resigned or are in the process of doing so, sources in the BJP said.
The Cabinet reshuffle follows a long deliberation exercise that was carried out at the party level, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired an over-five-hour meeting on 30 June to decide on new inductees and those who could be dropped.
Performance or age?
Many of the ministers who have been dropped had been under the lens for their performance. These include Harsh Vardhan, who drew flak for the inept handling of the Covid situation during the second wave, and Gangwar, who came under severe criticism for the handling of the migrant crisis last year.
Soon after the nationwide lockdown was announced last March during the first wave of the Covid pandemic, lakhs of migrant workers — left jobless — had to return home, thousands of them on foot in the absence of public transport. The labour ministry had then come under fire for failing to address the woes of the migrant workers.
Age could also have been a factor in dropping Gangwar, 73, from the Cabinet. Ahead of the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections early next year, the removal of Gangwar, an MP from Bareilly, would help pave the way for accommodating young leaders from the state. Seven new faces from UP are being inducted in the Cabinet.
Meanwhile, under Prasad, the IT ministry had been involved in a row with social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook over the implementation of new rules notified by the central government in February.
Pohkriyal has cited health reasons for resigning from the Union cabinet. After suffering from Covid in April, he had developed complications and has been in and out of hospital. While he had a largely controversy-free tenure, there has been speculation that PM Modi was not happy with Pokhriyal’s work, especially how the ministry played an indecisive role with regard to the CBSE board exams this year.
Government sources said Javadekar, 70, has not been keeping well.
Supriyo and Chaudhuri are both from West Bengal, where the BJP failed to win the assembly elections earlier this year despite putting up a high-stakes campaign. While the party improved its tally in the state, it got all of 77 out of Bengal’s 294 seats.
Also, Chaudhuri’s tenure as MoS has been lacklustre, as has Supriyo’s, sources said. The latter had also contested the state assembly election from the Tollygunge seat but lost to Trinamool Congress candidate Aroop Biswas.
However, a BJP leader told ThePrint Tuesday that the the idea behind the reshuffle is not just to address recent poll performances and concerns about the handling of the second wave of the pandemic, but also to have a “young” Cabinet.
“Gehlot ji has been made the governor and he’s 73 … it shows the idea is to have a young cabinet in place,” a BJP leader had told ThePrint.
While Pokhriyal is 61, Vardhan is 66, Gowda 68, Prasad 66, and Gangwar 72. Shamrao is 62, Sarangi 66, Kataria 69, and Choubey 68. Chaudhuri is 40 and Supriyo 50.
This is an updated version of the copy
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)