His government’s image hit by a crisis of capacity and credibility during the second Covid wave, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Wednesday signalled a reset effecting the most sweeping change in his Council of Ministers since he took charge for the first time in 2014.
The Big Rejig
In the biggest-ever expansion of the Council of Ministers since he took charge for the first time in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inducted as many as 36 new faces taking the tally in the Council of Ministers to 78 (including the PM), just a notch short of the statutory limit of 81. And 12 sitting ministers, including Ravi Shankar Prasad, Ramesh Pokhariyal, Harsh Vardhan, were shown the door. Sources said the Ministers got no indication of their imminent exit.
And portfolios of the sectors ravaged by the pandemic — from health and education to labour, civil aviation, IT and petroleum — were allocated to new and young leaders, all under 55 years.
One such handpicked young face is former IAS officer Ashwini Vaishnaw, who will take over as the new Union Minister for Communications, Electronics and Information Technology, and Railways. A IIT-Kanpur graduate, Vaishnaw worked in the PMO during A B Vajpayee’s tenure. He also occupied leadership roles at GE Transportation and Siemens after completing his MBA from Wharton Business School.
While there are no immediate answers behind the exit of several senior ministers, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan’s departure is one of the strongest signals on the handling of the ferocious second Covid-19 wave — to the government’s detractors, it is an admission of its failure; and to its supporters, a much-needed course correction to reassure the country.
With the recent reshuffle, the Narendra Modi government has nearly doubled the number of women ministers since the first term. The strength has moved from six in the previous term to 11 – the highest number of women ministers in the Union government since 2004.
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Actor Sharmila Tagore remembers Dilip Kumar, “the ultimate method actor”, who passed away at 98. “Yusuf sahab had a splendid grasp over the Urdu language. His dialogue delivery was so unique. Nobody has been able to quite master the same technique. He could hypnotise anyone with that voice.”
The worsening political tussle within the LJP took a new turn after Pashupati Kumar Paras — leader of a faction of the LJP that walked away with most of the party’s Lok Sabha MPs — was administered the oath of office as Union Cabinet minister. Soon after, opposition faction leader Chirag Paswan moved Delhi High Court against Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla’s decision to declare Paras as the LJP Parliamentary party leader.
Three houses owned by the family of Munna Paswan, the head of Palia village in UP’s Azamgarh district, were a picture of destruction — broken appliances, furniture vandalised. The Paswan family is blaming local police, who they allege ransacked the houses and assaulted villagers following a row over an inter-caste alliance in a nearby village. The police, however, denied the allegations, claiming that the Paswan’s were framing them so they would not arrest Munna.
While 84 per cent believe respecting all regions is central to being truly Indian, about two in every three Indians put a high priority on stopping interfaith and inter-caste marriages. These were among the findings of a recent survey of nearly 30,000 individuals by the Pew Research Center, titled ‘Religion in India: Tolerance and Segregation’.
Delhi Confidential: At the meeting with his new Cabinet team at his residence yesterday, PM Modi made it clear that despite the revamp, there is no change of equations in the power structure in the top leadership. Modi was flanked by senior ministers Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh and Gadkari, J P Nadda and B L Santhosh.
In today’s episode of ‘3 Things’, we look at PM Modi’s new Cabinet, the change in Congress’ stance with regard to some provisions of the stringent UAPA, and the failed infiltration attempt by Pakistani terrorists at the LoC.
Leela Prasad G and Rahel Philipose
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