Four Ministers of State — Dharmendra Pradhan, Piyush Goyal, Nirmala Sithraman and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi — were on Sunday promoted to the Cabinet and nine new faces including four former bureaucrats became Ministers of States as Prime Minister Narendra Modi expanded the union council of ministers.
The promoted ministers and the new faces were administered the oath of office and secrecy by President Ram Nath Kovind at a 35-minute ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, attended among others by Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu, Modi, BJP President Amit Shah, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad and family members of the some new ministers.
The new Ministers of State are former diplomat Hardeep Puri, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat (MP), former Mumbai Police Commissioner Satya Pal Singh (MP), former bureaucrat K.J. Alphons as well as Ashwini Choubey, Shiv Pratap Shukla, Virendra Kumar, Anant Kumar Hegde and former union Home Secretary R.K. Singh (all MPs).
Sunday’s exercise did not involve BJP allies including the Janata Dal-United.
The portfolios of the new and existing ministers — if any of them gets a new ministry — will be known after Rashtrapati Bhavan issues a press communique on recommendations of the Prime Minister, who left for China after the swearing-in ceromony.
Pradhan (Petroleum), Goyal (Power), Sitharaman (Commerce and Industry) and Naqvi (Minority Affairs) were Ministers of State with independent charge.
Suresh Prabhu appeared to indicate that he will no longer be the Railway Minister.
“Thanks to all 13 Lacs plus rail family for their support, love, goodwill. I will always cherish these memories with me. Wishing you all a great life,” he tweeted. Prabhu had offered to quit after last months’s rail accident in Uttar Pradesh claimed 23 lives.
Among the new entrants, four are former bureaucrats. While Puri and Alphons are not members of Parliament, R.K. Singh and Satyapal Singh are members of Lok Sabha. Four others are from the Lok Sabha and one is from Rajya Sabha.
Puri, who was India’s Permanent Representative at the UN, joined the BJP ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha election. An officer of the 1974 IFS batch, he is known for his experience and expertise in foreign policy and national security.
Alphons, who earned the sobriquet “Demolition Man” when as DDA Commissioner he undertook a campaign against unauthorized constructions in Delhi scrapping 15,000 buildings, is a former IAS officer who joined the BJP in Kerala.
As a Collector, Alphons played a leading role in making Kottayam the first literate town in the whole country in 1989. He is the first BJP person from Kerala in the central government after the veteran O. Rajagopal.
R.K. Singh, a Lok Sabha member from Ara in Bihar, was union Home Secretary during the UPA rule and served in various capacities.
Satyapal Singh, an MP from Baghpat in Uttar Pradesh, was Mumbai Police Commissioner and is also known for his work in Maoist-affected areas of Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. He was credited with breaking the backbone of organised crime syndicates in the 1990s.
In the political category, Shiv Pratap Shukla, the Rajya Sabha MP from Uttar Pradesh, is a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Rural Development and a four-time member MLA in Uttar Pradesh. He has served as cabinet minister in the state for eight years and is known for his work in rural development, education and prison reforms.
The other nominee from Bihar, Ashwini Choubey, is a Lok Sabha member from Buxar. He was elected MLA from Bhagalpur five consecutive times and has held the portfolios of Health, Urban Development and Public Health Engineering.
Virendra Kumar is a six-time Lok Sabha member from Tikamgarh in Madhya Pradesh and is the chairman of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour. Choubey and Kumar have participated in the JP movement in 1970s and were imprisoned during the Emergency.
Hegde, a Lok Sabha MP from Uttara Kannada in Karnataka, is a seasoned parliamentarian having won five elections. He is a member of the parliamentary committee on External Affairs and Human Resource Development and has keen interest in rural development. Assembly elections are due in Karnatka early next year and in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan in the later part.
Shekhawat, a first time MP from Jodhpur in Rajasthan, is a techno savvy progressive farmer and is seen as a role model for the rural community. Known for his simple lifestyle, he is one of the most followed political leaders on Quora globally.
With Sunday’s exercise, the strength of the Modi ministry goes up to 76 including the Prime Minister. Twenty-eight are in the Cabinet.