The exercise had the stamp of deft hand play by the Modi-Amit Shah duo as it looked to beef up administrative efficiency while taking into account political requirements.
Manohar Parrikar, Suresh Prabhu, J P Nadda and Birendra Singh have been inducted into the Cabinet, while health minister Harsh Vardhan and railway minister Sadanand Gowda have been replaced and given lesser portfolios. Nadda moves into the health ministry and Suresh Prabhu, who left Shiv Sena to join the BJP just before being sworn in, replaces Gowda as railway minister. Parrikar has been given the defence portfolio, while the Haryana Jat leader, Birendra Singh, has got rural development. While Vardhan has been given science and technology, Gowda has been shifted to law and justice.
TOI was the first to report, in its front page lead of October 17 that Modi would expand his cabinet before the winter session of Parliament. In the days leading up to the swearing-in, TOI correctly predicted 20 of 21 ministerial names.
The three ministers of state with independent charge are former aviation minister RajivPratapRudy and first-time MP from Noida Mahesh Sharma. Sharma has been given independent charge of tourism and culture, while he is also MoS civil aviation. Rudy has independent charge of the newly-created ministry of skill development, a pet project of Modi, and will assist VenkaiahNaiduin parliamentary affairs. BandaruDattatreya, the party's lone MP from Telangana, will be in charge of labour.
With this round of cabinet expansion, Modi has 66 ministers in his council. He still has headroom for at least 13 more ministers as the maximum he can induct are 79 ministers. While he may not go up to that number, there is a good possibility of a third round of expansion, albeit a modest one. The last UPA government had 78 Union ministers.
While Shiv Sena did not let its nominee Anil Desai take oath because of tensions with BJP, Y S Chaudhary from TDP was sworn in as MoS.
Modi's ministerial expansion appeared to be driven by the concern to improve the functioning of key ministries. The allocation of defence, held so far by Arun Jaitley as additional charge, is meant to free up the finance minister so that he can focus on the task of presenting—as PM recently told secretaries— a "transformational budget" and speed up economic reforms. However, he has been entrusted with another ministry—information & broadcasting—although the burden here will be lighter than defence.
Parrikar, who like Jaitley has a clean image, is expected to take forward the recent measures to speed up the long-pending modernization programme of India's armed forces and build domestic manufacturing capabilities. His engineering background and experience as two-term CM are expected to work favourably for him.
Efficiency and reputation for probity are also the reasons behind Suresh Prabhu's move to the Rail Bhavan. It comes in the wake of talk about the ministry's performance not being commensurate with the billing it has got under Modi who set ambitious targets for modernization of the rail infrastructure and upgradation of amenities.
Nadda has worked under Modi for long and is expected to be in sync with his plan to revamp the health sector. Vardhan, with his medical background, has been found to have had too much empathy for the set rhythms of the health ministry. Nadda, like other new appointees such as Parrikar and Dattatreya, has strong RSS links and score high on the ideological quotient.
Birendra Singh's appointment in the rural development ministry, which has among the largest budgetary allocations, will mean that recast of land acquisition act , MNREGA and implementation of Adarsh Gram Yojana, will now get full attention—something that was missing after the sudden demise of Gopinath Munde.
Sunday's appointments also address BJP's political needs—in fact, they cleverly blend Modi's governance objectives with BJP chief Amit Shah's political priorities. For instance, Bihar which goes to polls in less than a year and figures high on Shah's priority list has got three berths—Rudy, Ramkripal Yadav and Giriaj Singh. West Bengal, another state on the BJP chief's radar, has got its representative in Asansol MP Babul Supriyo.
Jats who solidly supported the BJP in Lok Sabha polls in Rajasthan, Western UP, Delhi and Haryana have got two representatives in the expanded ministry: Birendra Singh and Sanwar Lal Jat. With Muzaffaarnagar MP Sanjeev Balyan inducted in the first lot, the Modi government has the largest contingent of the community in recent times - something that can be of help in the coming Delhi assembly elections.
New ministers in PM Modi's council of ministers
Jagat Prakash Nadda
Health & Family Welfare
Chaudhary Birender Singh
Rural Development, Panchayati Raj, Drinking Water and Sanitation
MoS with independent charge
Rajiv Pratap Rudy
Skill development & entrepreneurship (independent charge), parliamentary affairs
Labour and employment (independent charge)
Culture (independent charge), tourism (independent charge), civil aviation
Ministers of state
General VK Singh
Statistics and programme implementation (independent charge), external affairs, overseas indian affairs
Inderjit Singh Rao
Planning (independent charge), defence
Santosh Kumar Gangwar
Textiles (independent charge)
Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi
Minority affairs, parliamentary affairs
Ram Kripal Yadav
Drinking water & sanitation
Haribhai Parthibhai Chaudhary
Sanwar Lal Jat
Water resources, river development & ganga rejuvenation
Mohanbhai Kalyanjibhai Kundariya
Micro, small & medium enterprises
Hansraj Gangaram Ahir
Chemicals & fertilizers
Ram Shankar Katheria
Human resource development
Science and technology, earth science
Col. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore
Information & broadcasting
Urban development, housing and urban poverty alleviation
Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti
Food processing industries
Social justice & empowerment
The appointment of Sanwar Lal and Olympic silver medallist Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore (MoS I&B) is a "thank you" note for Rajashthan which was swept by BJP in the LS polls but had so far a lone representative in Nihalchand Meghwal. The claim of Dushyant Singh, son of CM Vasundhara Raje and three-term MP from Dholpur, however has been kept pending.
Giriraj Singh's entry is a similar gesture towards Bhumihars, a caste that rooted for BJP in LS polls in Bihar but was so far represented by just Manoj Sinha, minister of state for railways who represents Ghazipur in UP. Political opponents have tried to make an issue of the lack of representation to the caste group, and the appointment of Giriraj, a controversial figure, is meant to deny them the opening.
The appointment of Ram Kripal Yadav, who was a close associate of Lalu Prasad before he crossed over to BJP and defeated the RJD leader's daughter Misa Bharti, is aimed to send out a strong signal to Yadavs, Lalu's mainstay, that switching sides will not go unrewarded.
Entry of Katheria, Mahesh Sharma and Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti fits in with Shah's plan to replicate BJP's stunning sweep of UP in the next assembly elections. Katheria who represents Agra and Vijay Sampla, the MP from Hoshiarpur in Punjab are the two new dalit faces in the ministry. Coming after his appointment as BJP general secretary, the latest leg up for Katheria marks party's effort to build upon its foray into BSP's dalit constituency - a breakthrough that was crucial for the party's success in 73 of 80 Lok Sabha seats.
Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti , belongs to the extremely backward Nishad community, an important building block for the social coalition BJP has tried to forge. Dattatreya, party's lone MP from Telangana, reflects the BJP's assessment that the new state may turn out to be politically fertile for it in the coming years.