New Delhi: Six cabinet ministers, one minister of state with independent charge and five other ministers of state (MoS) were dropped ahead of the mega cabinet reshuffle Wednesday.
Though a rejig had been expected for some time, Prime Minister Narendra Modi sprang a surprise as many heavyweight ministers who were expecting an elevation were actually asked to resign.
However, it was not the PMO that informed the ministers that they were sacked. The exit call was dialled by BJP president J.P. Nadda. And the new inductees also did not receive a call from the PMO either. It was party general secretary B.L. Santhosh who gave them the good news, sources told ThePrint.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi shared the list of sacked ministers with Nadda on 6 July, the day the latter returned from his Himachal Pradesh trip. The BJP president then met Home Minister Amit Shah and B.L. Santhosh and personally informed the 12 ministers to tender their resignation.
“I was taking rest when I received a call from the BJP president’s office. I thought it was a call for elevation to cabinet rank, but he (Nadda) told me the party has decided to assign me a different role and that I won’t be a part of the cabinet now. So, as a party solider, I tendered my resignation,” one of the ministers now dropped from the cabinet told ThePrint.
Another outgoing minister told ThePrint that they were keeping unwell and had requested the PM to divest them from ministerial responsibilities.
Sources, however, told ThePrint that a few ministers, including Harsh Vardhan, were dropped due to their inability to handle the Covid situation during the second wave. They said Harsh Vardhan is likely to be given charge of Delhi ahead of the municipal elections scheduled to be held next year, replacing Adesh Gupta.
Among the dropped leaders, Babul Supriyo was the first one to express his unhappiness. In a now-deleted Facebook post, Supriyo said he was “asked to resign”. He later clarified that he had “resigned” from his post as the Union minister of state, and said it would be improper to frame his statement as if he has been asked to go.
The six cabinet ministers who were dropped included 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 fertilisers), and Thawar Chand Gehlot, 73 (social justice and empowerment).
Gehlot’s resignation came a day before the others as it was announced Tuesday that he has been appointed the governor of Karnataka.
Although PM Modi, in a meeting with his new Council of Ministers Thursday, said the new team should meet and seek guidance from their predecessors, BJP sources said a few of them may be appointed governors at an appropriate time.
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Thirty-six new ministers were inducted into the cabinet and seven were promoted. The mammoth task to call every minister in Modi’s new team was undertaken by B.L. Santhosh.
It was Santhosh who informed the ministers that they are going to be part of the Modi cabinet and asked them to reach Delhi immediately.
A leader from UP, who is part of the new Council of Ministers, told ThePrint that he was busy making arrangements for a family wedding when he received a call from the BJP headquarters. “Santhosh ji told me I will be inducted into the cabinet so I have to reach Delhi immediately. Later, I received a call from the PMO about a meeting with the prime minister the next day.”
A senior BJP leader said even though inducting a new minister is always the PM’s prerogative, Modi “always tries to take feedback” of the party before making a decision. “Therefore, Nadda and B.L. Santhosh were involved and they participated in several meetings.”
(Edited by Neha Mahajan)
Also read: Javadekar, Pokhriyal, RS Prasad, Harsh Vardhan — why Modi govt dropped big names from Cabinet