In a major ministerial shake up two years since he took over, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inducted 19 new faces, elevated Minister of State Prakash Javadekar to cabinet rank and sent him to replace Smriti Irani in the Human Resource Development Ministry, while also making changes in key portfolios like law, communications and parliamentary affairs.
He also dropped five junior ministers.
Hours after the ceremonial swearing-in of new ministers including Javadekar and allies Apna Dal’s leader Anupriya Patel and Republican Party of India-A’s Ramdas Athawale by President Pranab Mukherjee, the Prime Minister allotted the portfolios.
In the exercise, Modi sprang a major surprise and replaced high-profile and vocal Irani, who has been at the eye of storm with former Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, who is credited for being industry friendly.
In another key move he removed lacklustre D.V. Sadananda Gowda of Karnataka as Law Minister and gave the responsibility to Ravi Shankar Prasad. Gowda has been moved to the ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.
As expected, Modi left four major portfolios of Home (Rajnath Singh), Sushma Swaraj (External Affairs), Arun Jaitley (Finance) and Manohar Parrikar (Defence) untouched while senior ministers Nitin Gadkari (Road Transport, Highways and Shipping) and Suresh Prabhu (Railways) have retained their earlier assignments.
Prasad was divested of Communications and allotted Law while Parliamentary Affairs has been taken away from M. Venkaiah Naidu.
Naidu, however, has been given additional charge of the I&B Ministry (held currently by Jaitley) apart from his existing Urban Development and Housing portfolio, said an official source.
Chemicals and Fertilisers Minister H.N. Ananth Kumar will be the new Parliamentary Affairs Minister also.
Irani has been made Textiles Minister, replacing Santosh Gangwar who will be now be Minister of State for Finance. Former bureaucrat Arjun Meghwal, who was inducted in Tuesday’s expansion, has also been made Minister of State in this crucial ministry.
Among other cabinet changes, Rural Development and Drinking Water and Sanitation Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh from Haryana now would swap portfolios with Steel and Mines Minister Narendra Singh Tomar of Madhya Pradesh, who will also hold charge of Panchayati Raj.
According to sources, newly-inducted Anil Madhav Dave will be the new Minister of State for Environment replacing Javadekar.
Vijay Goel, also inducted on Tuesday, will be the new Minister of State (Independent Charge) of Sports and Youth Affairs.
M.J. Akbar has been appointed Minister of State for External Affairs.
Jayant Sinha, who was junior minister in the finance ministry, now becomes Minister of State for Civil Aviation.
Manoj Sinha will now hold the Communications portfolio too as Minister of State (Independent Charge) besides being MoS Railways.
The five Ministers of State who were dropped were Sanwar Lal Jat (Water Resources), Nihalchand (Panchayati Raj), Ram Shankar Katheria (HRD), Mansukh Bhai Vasava (Tribal Affairs) and Mohanbhai Kundaria (Agriculture).
Katheria has been lately vocal in favour of hardline Hindutva politics.
At the swearing-in at Rashtraptai Bhjavan on Tuesday morning, Vice President Hamid Ansari, Modi, BJP President Amit Shah and several union ministers including Jaitley, Rajnath Singh and Gadkari were also present.
BJP veteran L.K. Advani and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj missed the event but for different reasons.
Among other changes, Mahesh Sharma, who was earlier Minister of State for Civil Aviation under Ashok Gajapati Raju, has been left with his independent charge of Culture & Tourism. S.S. Ahluwalia will be the new Minister of State for Agriculture and Parliamentary Affairs, sources said adding MoS Agriculture Sanjeev Balyan has been moved as junior minister for Water Resources.