Sudden announcements with regard to changes in governance have been a trademark of the Narendra Modi government. Following this trend of theirs, India witnessed a cabinet reshuffle on July 7, 2021, that witnessed the addition of a new ministry and 36 new faces increasing the cabinet size to 78. This change came parallelly with the resignation of 12 ministers, including health minister Dr. Harshvardhan and education minister Ramesh Pokhriyal among others. The expansion also saw diversification as the Council of Ministers now has 11 women, 27 OBCs, 12 members of the Scheduled Castes and 8 of the Scheduled Tribes. This move brings in young, new and fresh faces to his administration that as he stated are ‘sought to boost the governance quotient’.’
While some criticise the move for appeasement of voters in the election-bound Uttar Pradesh as many UP MPs were added or promoted, others deem it as a ‘reward and punishment strategy. The latter statement perhaps stems from the swearing-in of turncoats like Jyotiraditya Scindia (previously in Congress) as a union minister and the resignation of Dr. Harshvardhan following the COVID mismanagement during the second wave in India.
An analysis of the background of the ministers who now have the reins to India’s way forward becomes imperative. Answers to whether or not they have the required educational or administrative competence to deserve the portfolio doesn't come easily from themselves. So, here is an attempt to know about eight of the most influential ones.
Hardeep Singh Puri: The former Aviation Minister, who made the headlines after banning stand-up comedian Kunal Kamra from air travel, has now replaced Dharmendra Pradhan as the new Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister. He has served as a diplomat and deputy high commissioner in the 1990s. He joined the BJP in 2014 and has held 3 portfolios since 2019. Although he completed a BA in History from Delhi University, it is his experience at the United Nations in the capacity of an ambassador and representative that gives him administrative and diplomacy experience required for this portfolio. Energy experts welcome this move as they are expecting him to strike better deals. He is among those 45 ministers in the new cabinet who have no criminal records as per reports.
Mansukh Madaviya: A BJP member from Gujarat, Mandaviya’s elevation as the Union Health Minister is one of the most widely talked about changes. He has been the Minister of State Chemicals and Fertilizers in the 2019 cabinet before being promoted this month. While his foot marches (for girls’ education etc.) and Political Science degree aren't remotely related to the assigned portfolio, he must be credited for his contribution to setting up over 5000 Jan Aushadhi stores. However, his vibrant political career which started at the young age of 29 as the youngest MLA from Gujarat, does provide him with sufficient administrative experience. He has no reported criminal records.
Anurag Thakur: ‘Desh ke gaddaro ko, goli maaro saalo ko.’ Does this phrase ring a bell? Cue-Delhi elections 2020. Anurag Thakur is the man who shouted this famous couplet that stormed netizens to condemn this instigative sloganeering by a Union minister. Starting his political career as an MP from Himachal Pradesh in the 14th Lok Sabha, Thakur went on to bag the Sansad Ratna Award in 2019. He is now promoted from Minister of State for Finance and Corporate Affairs to the Union Ministry of Information & Broadcasting and Youth Affairs and Sports. He was a former cricket player and BCCI President between May 2016 to February 2017 before the Supreme Court ousted him following a controversy. He has declared 3 cases in his criminal records and 12 Indian Penal Code charges, which includes two charges of criminal conspiracy among others.
Jyotiraditya Scindia: Jyotiraditya Madhavrao Scindia is the current Minister of Civil Aviation and the richest minister in the cabinet with assets worth Rs.370 crores. Scindia holds an MBA from Stanford University. He joined politics in 2002 after the death of his father, Congress leader Madhavrao Scindia and followed in his footsteps to become a member of the INC. He began his official political career in 2007 when he was appointed as the Minister of State for Communications and Information Technology in Uttar Pradesh. In the cabinet reshuffle in 2012 in UP, he became the Minister of Power, under whom UP witnessed the July 2012 power blackout. It is seen as the largest power blackout in history. Known as a Rahul Gandhi loyalist, Scindia left the Congress in a surprising turn of events to join the BJP in March 2020. Congress released a statement that said that he was expelled for ‘anti-party activities’.
Virendra Kumar Khatik: Dr. Virendra Kumar Khatik is serving as the Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment. He has been a student of Dr. Hari Singh Gour University since the fifth grade and also got his PhD there. He has been an MP since 1996 and has vast administrative experience in this field. Khatik belongs to the Dalit community and has had long ties to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh [RSS]. Holding assets worth over Rs.2 crores, Khatik has been the Minister of State in Women and Child Development as a part of the National Democratic Alliance [NDA].
Ashwini Vaishnaw: Rather new to the political landscape as an MP, Ashwini Vasihnaw’s political career began only in 2019 after being elected from Odisha to the Rajya Sabha. He is a former IAS officer, now serving as the Minister of Railways and Communications and Electronics & Information Technology of India. He completed his M.Tech from IIT Kanpur, before cracking IAS in 1994 with an all-India rank of 27. In 2008, Vaishnaw got his MBA from Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He rose to prominence when the super cyclone hit Odisha in 1999, as he was one of the most important people during those times to help in tracking the cyclone. In 2004, after the BJP/NDA alliance lost the general elections he became the private secretary to former PM Vajpayee, giving him extensive administrative experience.
Pashupati Nath Paras: Pashupati Nath Paras is the new Minister of Food Processing Industries. Apart from making headlines as a new minister, Paras made to the news for ousting his nephew, Chirag Paswan, out of the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and became the National President of the party in June 2021. He has had decades of experience in administration as he held the position of Minister of Animal and Fisheries Resources in the Government of Bihar. He has been a part of the Bihar Legislative Assembly from Alauli since 1977. He was also the state president of the Bihar chapter of the LJP. In 2017, he was charged under the Indian Penal Code section 188 for instigating a communal riot.
Kiren Rijiju: Kiren Rijiju is the current Minister of Law and Justice. In 1998, he did his graduate degree in law (L.L.B) from Campus Law Centre, Faculty of Law, University of Delhi. Rijiju is considered the face of the Northeast for the BJP. He was elected as a Member of Parliament in the 16th Lok Sabha, representing the Arunachal West constituency. In 2019, Rijiju became Minister of State [Independent Charge] for Youth Affairs and Sports and Minister of State for Home Affairs. He has also been historically anti-refugee, stating that "Rohingyas are illegal immigrants and stand to be deported". He also stated that "India has absorbed the maximum number of refugees in the world so nobody should give India any lessons on how to deal with refugees".
Along with the reshuffling of the portfolios, PM Modi also introduced an entirely new Ministry- Ministry Of Cooperation, headed by the current Home Minister Amit Shah, which provides a separate legal, administrative and political framework for the cooperative movement.
With all this being said, according to a report published by the Association for Democratic Reforms, 33 ministers, i.e 43% of his new administration has criminal cases lodged against them. Out of these 33, 24 of them have serious criminal charges lodged against them. These charges include; murder, attempted murder, robbery, etc. Throughout India’s history, politics has been synonymous with crime and corruption. With the growing political divide in our country, it is now more than important to know the people who govern us. With the more religious, pro-right rhetoric, and the voices of dissent being curbed it is essential that our country should have ministers it can trust.
Pashupati Nath Paras, Chirag Paswan's Bête Noire, Replaces Tomar in Team Modi. (2021, july 8th). News 18. https://www.news18.com/news/politics/pashupati-nath-paras-chirag-paswans-bete-noire-joins-new-team-modi-3934919.html
Kiren Rijiju. (n.d.). OneIndia. https://www.oneindia.com/politicians/kiren-rijiju-32446.html
Karmakar, D. K. (2019, October 24th). Bihar on top in 2017 communal riot cases. The Times Of India. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/patna/bihar-on-top-in-2017-communal-riot-cases/articleshow/71727290.cms
FP Staff. (2021, July 8th). Narendra Modi’s new Cabinet: Here’s the full list of portfolios and who got which ministry. FirstPost. https://www.firstpost.com/politics/narendra-modis-new-cabinet-heres-the-full-list-of-portfolios-and-who-got-what-ministry-9787301.html
Narendra Modi Cabinet 2.0. (2021, July 8th). The Hindu. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/narendra-modi-cabinet-20/article35206567.ece
'Shoot the traitors': BJP's Anurag Thakur leads crowd in chant against anti-CAA protesters at BJP rally in New Delhi- Firstpost
Modi's New Cabinet: Indian Star News
Swearing In Ceremony: can.editorji.com
Women In the Cabinet: Zee5.com