Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to induct a former diplomat, an ex-police commissioner and two former bureaucrats, indicating his focus on professionalism and administrative experience as he revamps his council of ministers with nine new faces on Sunday.
Modi’s ministerial team will include former representative to the United Nations Hardeep Puri, former Mumbai police commissioner Satya Pal Singh, ex-home secretary RK Singh, and former Delhi Development Authority Commissioner KJ Alphons, who was known as the “Demolition Man” of Delhi for acting against encroachments and unauthorised constructions.
They and five others will be sworn in by President Ram Nath Kovind at 10:30am in a ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhawan on Sunday morning, which will mark the third rejig of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s council of ministers since he took over three years ago. Their inclusion will take the strength of the Union council of ministers to 76. Ahead of the ceremony, the PM will meet the new ministers over breakfast.
The other inductees include Shiv Pratap Shukla from eastern UP, known as a detractor of chief minister Yogi Adityanath, Ashwini Kumar Choubey from Bihar, Virendra Kumar, a Dalit leader from Madhya Pradesh, Anant Kumar Hegde from Karnataka, and Gajendra Singh Shekhawat from Rajasthan.
The JD(U), an NDA constituent that was tipped to get two ministerial berths, is unlikely to join the government in Sunday’s exercise.
The Shiv Sena, which has only one Cabinet minister at the Centre, objected to more representation being given to JD(U) unless it too got additional cabinet berths, said sources from the two regional parties.
Shiv Sena has 18 members in the Lok Sabha while the JD(U) has 2.
That the Prime Minister has put a premium on competence and efficiency in revamping his team is evident from the fact that he has not picked anybody from poll-bound Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, as was widely anticipated.
However, the selection of new ministers is not completely without political imprint. There seems to be an attempt to reach out to Brahmins after the exit of Kalraj Mishra from the Union Cabinet. While the new UP BJP chief, Mahendra Nath Pandey, is a Brahmin, the PM has picked up another from the community from UP, Shiv Pratap Shukla.
Similarly, the inclusion of Satya Pal Singh was also necessitated to make up for the exit of fellow Jat Sanjiv Kumar Balyan from the government.
With Vasundhara Raje government facing the ire of Rajputs in Rajasthan following the encounter of gangster Anandpal Singh recently, inclusion of Gajendra Singh Shekhawat is expected to mollify the community to some extent.
Induction of KJ Alphons in the Union government is also expected to boost the BJP’s political prospects in Kerala.
But the larger message of Sunday’s revamp is a thrust on bringing efficiency and dynamism in the government and not political expediency. Hardeep Puri could probably be the first former diplomat who will join the Union council of ministers without a stint in politics.
“The new ministers are going to be strategically placed in key ministries, especially focusing on last mile delivery directly to the people,” said a government source.
It reinforces Modi’s team with the power of 4P for passion, proficiency, professional and political acumen, said the source.
Non-performance was said to be the reason for the resignation of most of the six ministers who put in their papers over the last few days— Kalraj Mishra, Bandaru Dattatreya, Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Sanjiv Balyan, Faggan Singh Kulaste and Mahendra Nath Pandey.
Mishra, however, said on Saturday that he had crossed 76 years and so he himself wanted to be relieved of ministerial responsibility.
Some ministers of state with independent charges—Piyush Goyal, Dharmendra Pradhan, Manoj Sinha, and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi—are said to be in contention for promotion to a Cabinet rank on Sunday.
Important portfolios, held as additional charges by ministers, are also likely to be re-allocated. These include defence, railways, information and broadcasting, environment and forests, and urban development and housing.