Prime Minister Narendra Modi effected an expansion of his Council of Ministers, and promoted Union Minister for Environment and Forests, Prakash Javdekar to Cabinet rank in a ceremony held at the Durbar Hall of the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Mr. Javadekar was the only Cabinet Minister with 19 fresh new faces taking oath as Ministers of State. The Council of Ministers is now 78-member strong, after 19 new members were inducted. The previously existing strength of the government was 64 (after Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and BJP Maharashta chief Rao Saheb Danve quit). With five Ministers of State tendering their resignations on Tuesday, the math adds up to 59 Ministers of the earlier batch being joined by 19 inductees.
The total strength of the Union council of Ministers has been capped at 82.
Every expansion of the Council of Ministers is a part of the political messaging of the government and this was no different. Inclusions of three Ministers from Uttar Pradesh, Anupriya Patel of the Apna Dal who commands support among the OBC Kurmi community in the state, Mrs Krishna Raj, from the SC reserved seat of Shahjahanpur and Dr Mahendranath Pandey, MP from Chandouli near Varanasi and a Brahmin gave a clue to the BJP’s social coalition plans in Uttar Pradesh.
For poll going Uttarakhand, the party steered clear of senior leaders like Bhagat Singh Koshiyari or even Ramesh Pokhriyal to plump for Almora MP Ajay Tamta, who is also a Dalit.
For Gujarat, which goes to polls next year as well, former state unit chief Purushottam Rupala alias Kadva Patel has been included along with Mansukhbhai Mandavia who belongs to the Leuva Patel community, thus balancing each other out. The third induction from the state, Jaswant Singh Bhabhore is a tribal. From Karnataka, Ramesh Jigajingi has been inducted.
The inclusion of S S Ahluwalia, is clearly aimed at better co-ordination with the opposition, which as a former Congressman, he is expected to help with.