Four cabinet ministers and nine ministers of state were sworn into the union council of ministers on Sunday morning. The list of portfolios is yet to be released.
Ministers of state with independent charge Dharmendra Pradhan, Piyush Goyal, Nirmala Sitharaman
and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi were promoted to the cabinet rank. Others sworn in were Shiv Pratap Shukla, Ashwini Kumar Choubey, Veerendra Kumar, Anant Kumar Hegde, RK Singh, Hardip Puri, Gajendra Shekhawat, Satyapal Singh and KJ Alphons. Puri and Alphons are not members of either of the Houses and are likely to be elected to the Rajya Sabha in the months to come.
Neither Janata Dal (United) nor All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) joined the council of ministers. Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut said the BJP has ignored its allies in the National
Democratic Alliance, and this is a purely BJP government. Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad said Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar
was now at the mercy of the BJP and become dispensable.
Pradhan, who is being looked at for a bigger role in Odisha, was the first to be sworn in, followed by Goyal, Sitharaman and Naqvi. Pradhan and Goyal’s performances have been publicly acknowledged by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Amit Shah after the party’s victory in the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls. Naqvi becomes the only Muslim with the cabinet rank in the Modi government. During the course of the swearing in ceremony, Shah sat next to the Prime Minister, with Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley occupying chairs next to Shah’s.
Of the ministers of state, Shukla is a Brahmin face from UP’s Gorakhpur. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath
is also from Gorakhpur. The Gorakhpur Lok Sabha seat is set for by-polls as Adityanath needs to quit his seat.
Choubey, another Brahmin, is a Lok Sabha MP from Bihar. He is said to be close to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) top leadership, and his rivalry with BJP leader and Bihar Deputy CM Sushil Modi is well known.
Veerendra Kumar is a six time Dalit Lok Sabha MP from Tikamgarh, while Hegde is a five time Lok Sabha member. Significantly, Hegde took his oath of office in Hindi. Karnataka assembly polls are due by May in 2018. Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah has raised the issue of the dignity of Kannada language and sub-nationalism. Hegde is known for his aggressive image.
Arrah MP and former union home secretary RK Singh, who arrested LK Advani during his ‘rath yatra’ in 1990, also took oath. With Rajiv Pratap Rudy quitting the union cabinet, the BJP leadership has brought in another Thakur into the cabinet.
Puri, a former diplomat, is considered an expert on multilateral forums. He is also a trade expert. Gajendra Shekhawat, an MP from Rajasthan, is a new age farmer and entrepreneur and has also built an effective social media team to publicise the projects of the Modi government.
With Sanjeev Kumar Balyan, a Jat leader from Uttar Pradesh, quitting the government, retired IPS officer Satyapal Singh has been inducted to send a message to the community that it continues to find space in the Modi government. Jats in Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh are said to be upset with the BJP and moving away from the party after their support in 2014 Lok Sabha polls and subsequent assembly polls in Haryana.
KJ Alphons is from Kerala. Apart from his experience in bureaucracy, the inclusion of Alphons also implies that BJP is committed to its efforts to make inroads in Kerala.