Nine new Union ministers took oath today at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. The swearing-in ceremony was attended by most of the senior members of the Council of Ministers including Prime Minister Narendra Modi. BJP president Amit Shah was also present during oath taking.
Modi-Shah team worked hard to get the balance right in the Cabinet with an eye on the next Lok Sabha elections - less than two years from now. Caste combination has been taken care of in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Poll-bound state of Karnataka has got a hardcore RSS member as Union minister. Besides, retired bureaucrats have also been inducted to get non-political work of governance done.
The new team has come up as a result of an interesting number pattern, which can be explained as 3,4,5,6-formula.
It was the third Cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in as many years. The Modi government was sworn-in in May 2015. Prime Minister Modi reshuffled his Cabinet in November that year within six months of forming the government. Suresh Prabhu and Manohar Parrikar were inducted in the Cabinet.
The second Cabinet reshuffle took place in July last year when 19 new ministers were included in the Union Council of Ministers. PM Modi had dropped five ministers of states while elevating Prakash Javadekar to cabinet rank.
There was another three - the number of vacancies in the Cabinet before reshuffle. Manohar Parrikar had resigned in March to take over as the Chief Minister of Goa. Arun Jaitley has since been taking care of Parrikar's defence portfolio.
The then Environment and Forest Minister Anil Dave passed away in May this year. Dave's portfolio passed on to Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan. In July, M Venkaiah Naidu resigned to contest the vice-presidential election. His portfolios were distributed among Narendra Singh Tomar and Smriti Irani.
Four is the number of former bureaucrats who took oath today as the Union ministers. They are Raj Kumar Singh, Hardeep Puri, Alphons Kannanthanam and Satyapal Singh.
Former Union home secretary and Lok Sabha MP from Bihar RK Singh had shot to fame during his bureaucratic career when he arrested veteran BJP leader LK Advani in 1990 at Samastipur in Bihar stopping his Rath Yatra. Hardeep Puri has had an illustrious career as diplomat. He was the permanent representative at the United Nations for several years. Hardeep Puri is also considered close to LK Advani and, in a sense, balances out RK Singh's presence in the Modi cabinet.
Alphons Kannanthanam and Satyapal Singh have vast administrative experience. Alphons Kannanthanam is known as the Demolition Man of the DDA. He has expertise in town planning and considered a good hand in infrastructure development.
Satyapal Singh is known for his drive against the underworld as the Mumbai police commissioner. His presence in the cabinet will also help the BJP counter the exit of Sanjiv Baliyan, the Jat leader from western Uttar Pradesh.
Incidentally, four ministers of state - Dharmendra Pradhan, Piyush Goyal, Nirmala Sitharamanand Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi - have been elevated to cabinet rank.
Five of the nine new ministers found their way into the cabinet due to caste and political considerations. They are Shiv Pratap Shukla, Ashwani Kumar Choubey, Virendra Kumar, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat and Anant Hegde.
Shiv Pratap Shukla is a known rival of UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. Both have strong Gorakhpur connection. Shukla's entry into the Cabinet also compensates the loss of Mahendra Nath Pandey as one Brahmin from UP replaces another in the Modi government.
Ashwani Kumar Choubey is another Brahmin from neighbouring Bihar. There was no Brahmin minister from Bihar in the Union Council of Minister. As a Rajput minister RK Singh from Bihar replaced Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Choubey's entry in the Cabinet looks at striking the right caste balance in Bihar BJP.
Virendra Kumar is a Dalit leader fromTikamgarh in the Budelkhand region of Madhya Pradesh. He is a six-time Lok Sabha MP. Virendra Kumar's induction in the cabinet comes roughly a month after Samptiya Uikey - a tribal leader from Madhya Pradesh - was made Rajya Sabha member by the BJP. The Dalit-tribal combination may help the BJP in Madhya Pradesh and Lok Sabha elections later.
Gajendra Singh Shekhawat is known as affable Rajpur leader in Rajasthan. He is a Lok Sabha MP from Jodhpur. Shekhawat's induction by PM Narendra Modi is an attempt to give Rajasthan more representation at the Centre. There has been sentiment in the poll-bound state that Rajasthan is under-represented in the Modi government despite voting overwhelmingly in BJP's favour in the 2014-Lok Sabha elections.
Karnataka is heading to assembly polls and BJP hopes to cash in on the anti-incumbency against Siddaramaiah government of Congress. Ananth Hegde is a strong RSS leader. He is a Lok Sabha MP from Uttara Kannada. Anant Hegde has the reputation of a hardliner Hindutva leader.
And, finally the number six. This is the number of ministers who were dropped from Narendra Modi cabinet. It is speculated that they were dropped on the basis of their under-performance. They are Kalraj Mishra, Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Bandaru Dattatreya, Faggan Singh Kulaste, Sanjiv Balyan and Mahendra Nath Pandey.
Modi and Shah are said to have relied on an excel sheet, prepared by a team of experts, who appraised performances of all the ministers. The excel sheet had a remarks column. Those ministers getting an "N" for negative were dropped from the Cabinet.
However, Kalraj Mishra is said to have been dropped on account of age - he is over 75 years now, and Mahendra Nath Pandey was set to go after he was made the UP BJP chief recently.