• Avani Sood

Changes in the Indian cabinet

The Prime Minister has tried to re-seize the political initiative with his Wednesday re

shuffle of the council of ministers. Since April, he has been on the back foot. When the second Covid 19 wave hit the country, many died, reportedly from oxygen shortages and a general lack of government preparedness. Losing West Bengal also did not help, particularly when the Prime Minister and Home Minister had campaigned intensively in the state.

There was the inept handling of the second Covid wave, and Union health minister Harsh Vardhan has had to go. There was mass migration last year, with lakhs trudging back to their villages, something India will take a long time to live down, and labour minister Santosh Gangwar was shown the door. Education minister Ramesh Pokhriyal was axed for the confusion that prevails in the education sector.

The sacking of Ravi Shankar Prasad and Prakash Javadekar, who was fielded most frequently to defend the government, came as a great surprise. As Communications, Electronics and Information Technology Minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad’s handling of the impasse with Twitter and the increased criticism of Modi on the microblogging site, may have cost Prasad his job. It was social media that built Modi’s image in the first place, helping him to bypass conventional media. Javadekar, too, may have been found wanting for his inability to prevent criticism of the government in the media, domestic and foreign.

Given the unhappiness at the way the second Covid wave was handled, some heads had to roll. Almost every family had lost someone they knew, or knew of, to Covid.

The PM has signalled that he wants a purposeful government. That there has to be accountability in a parliamentary democracy. And that the new entrants have to shape up.

Modi has his eye on the forthcoming state elections in 2022 and 2023 — and the general elections in 2024, and beyond. The PM has tried to represent every state of India, in some cases sub-regions in states, as well as different castes, particularly OBCs, Dalits and tribals, in his ministry. For the first time, there are 11 women ministers in the government.

A total of 43 MPs took oath as Ministers in Rashtrapati Bhavan. Seven Ministers of State were promoted. Ahead of the mega reshuffle, a phone call led to the resignation of 12 Ministers from the Modi Cabinet.

In the first Cabinet meeting after the reshuffle, the Union government allocated Rs 23,000 crores package for an emergency response to Covid-19. “Rs 23,123-crore package to be given to deal with Covid-19. It will be used jointly by the Central and state governments, said in the first media briefing of the new cabinet.

A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi handpicked young and new leaders to nurture and energise the sectors ravaged by the pandemic— from health and education to labour, civil aviation, IT and petroleum, the newly sworn-in Cabinet ministers took charge of their respective ministries.

Writer - Antra Pandey

Illustrations and Graphics - Shaina Rahman and Akshaya Shankarganesh