New Delhi [India], July 8 (ANI): Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday effected a major reshuffle and expansion of his ministry bringing Mansukh Mandaviya as Health Minister, Kiren Rijiju as Law Minister, Dharmendra Pradhan as Education Minister, and Jyotiratidya Scindia as Civil Aviation Minister.
The exercise, carried out over two years after the BJP-led government came to office in its second term and amid the ongoing battle against COVID-19, saw some ministers being dropped and the induction of 15 cabinet ministers and several ministers of state. Seven ministers of state were elevated to cabinet rank.
Home Minister Amit Shah is also the Minister of the newly-created Ministry of Cooperation. The Ministry of Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises, which was earlier with Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari has been allocated to former Maharashtra Chief Minister Narayan Rane.
Ashwini Vaishnaw, a former IAS Officer, has been appointed Minister of Railways, Minister of Communications, and Minister of Electronics and Information Technology.
The expansion saw more representation to states which will go to the polls next year including Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat and are apparently aimed at infusing more young talent in the government.
Smirti Irani stays as Women and Child Development Minister while the textiles portfolio that was with her has been given to Piyush Goyal, who continues as Minister of Commerce and Industry and Minister of Consumer Affairs. He also held the Railways portfolio earlier.
While the representation of OBCs, SCs, and youth has gone up the average age of cabinet has come down. The changes were made days ahead of the monsoon session of parliament.
Forty-three ministers, including seven who were elevated as cabinet ministers, took the oath of office at a function at Rashtrapati Bhavan held with protocols related to COVID-19.
The exercise, due for several months as some ministers held multiple portfolios, saw more allies of NDA joining the government. Members of JD-U and Apna Dal joined the government while the ministerial berth of LJP, which fell vacant due to the death of Ramvilas Paswan went to Pashupatikumar Paras.
Ahead of the expansion, 12 union ministers including Ravi Shankar Prasad, Dr Harsh Vardhan, Prakash Javadekar and DV Sadananda Gowda, Thaawarchand Gehlot, Ramesh Pokhriyal 'Nishank', Santosh Kumar Gangwar, Babul Supriyo, Sanjay Dhotre, Rattan Lal Kataria, Pratap Chandra Sarangi and Debasree Chaudhuri resigned from their posts.
The government had faced some criticism over its handling of the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic. Dr Harsh Vardhan had steered the Health Ministry's response to the pandemic.
Anurag Thakur, elevated to cabinet rank, was appointed Information and Broadcasting Minister and Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports. The change in the Sports Ministry, with Rijiju being shifted to Law Ministry, took place days ahead of Tokyo Olympics.
Environment Ministry got a new face in Bhupender Yadav. The BJP leader was also appointed Minister of Labour and Environment.
The Ministry of External Affairs got a woman minister with Meenakshi Lekhi appointed as Minister of State. She is also the junior minister of Culture. Dr Rakumar Ranjan Singh has also been appointed new MoS in External Affairs Ministry apart from that in Education.
Former Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal is the Minister for Ports, Shipping and Waterways and Minister of Ayush.
Finance and Corporate Affairs Ministry also got new junior ministers - Pankaj Chowdhary and Bhagwat Kishanrao Karad (Finance) and Anupriya Patel (Commerce and Industry).
Pradhan, who held the Petroleum portfolio earlier, has also been given Skill Development and Entrepreneurship apart from Education.
General V K Singh (retd), who was earlier Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways, is also MoS for Civil Aviation now.
Rajeev Chandrashekhar has been appointed MoS of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship and of Electronics and IT.
Virendra Kumar is the new Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment, Ramchandra Prasad Singh of Steel, and Pashupati Kumar Paras of Food Processing.
Hardeep Singh Puri, who has been elevated as a cabinet minister, is also the new Petroleum and Natural Gas minister apart from the Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs.
Mahendra Nath Pandey has been moved to Heavy Industries from Skill Development.
G Kishan Reddy, who has also been elevated, is the new Minister of Culture, Tourism, and Development of North Eastern Regions.
While Nitiyanand Rai stays as Minister of State for Home, Ajay Kumar and Nishith Pramanki are the new junior ministers in the ministry.
Ajay Bhatt will be the new Minister of State for Defence and of Tourism and BL Verma MoS in the Ministry of Cooperation and DoNER.
SP Singh Baghel had been made MoS of Law and Justice, Annpurna Devi and Dr Subhas Sarkar of Education, and Dr Bharati Pravin Pawar of Health and Family Welfare.
After the expansion, the BJP-led government has 12 members from the SC community, including two in the cabinet, eight members will be from Scheduled Tribes including three in the cabinet, and over 25 members from the OBC community including five in the cabinet.
There also has been an increase in the number of ministers with professional qualifications in the cabinet and now there are 13 lawyers, six doctors, five engineers, and seven civil servants.
Apart from G Kishan Reddy, Kiren Rijiju, Hardeep Singh Puri, Mansukh Mandaviya and Anurag Singh Thakur, Raj Kumar Singh and Parshottam Rupala were elevated as cabinet ministers.
Vaishnaw, who is a Rajya Sabha MP from Odisha, has been given communications and IT portfolios held earlier by Prasad. He has an MBA from Wharton School, Pennysylvania University, and MTech from IIT Kanpur. (ANI)