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Amid Cabinet reshuffle buzz, eight States get new Governors

A view of the Parliament House building, in New Delhi.   | Photo Credit: PTI

Ahead of a much anticipated Cabinet reshuffle at the Centre, Rashtrapati Bhawan has announced a slew of gubernatorial appointments, including that of Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thawarchand Gehlot as Governor of Karnataka, replacing Vajubhai Vala. This was the surest sign that a Cabinet reshuffle, regularly postponed since the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020, will finally come to pass as early as Wednesday evening or Thursday morning.

Apart from Mr. Gehlot, among the fresh appointees are former MP and former BJP president of the erstwhile combined State of Andhra Pradesh K Hari Babu as Governor of Mizoram, senior BJP leader and former Tribal Affairs Minister in Gujarat Mangubhai Patel as Governor of Madhya Pradesh and former Speaker of the Goa Assembly Rajendra Arlekar as Himachal Pradesh Governor. Mr. Arlekar is the first Goankar to be made Governor in the State’s history.

Several Governors have seen a change in States, including former Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya, who has been transferred from Himachal Pradesh to Haryana; senior BJP leader from Chattisgarh Ramesh Bais, who has been moved from Tripura to Jharkhand; Satyadev Arya transferred from Haryana to Tripura; and BJP leader from Kerala S Sreedharan Pillai going from Mizoram to Goa.

Big rejig in govt

While it is a fairly extensive rejig in terms of Raj Bhawans, informed sources said a Cabinet rejig would be extensive as well. The Modi Council of Ministers has around 28 vacancies, with only 53 of the 81 slots allowed under the Constitution occupied. Government sources said that as many as 20 new faces would be included, and in total, around 24 Ministers belonging to the Other Backward Classes (OBC) would find representation in the Council of Ministers at the end of this exercise.

“Among these 20 new faces will be very young MPs, bringing down the average age of the Council of Ministers to probably its lowest ever since Independence,” said a senior government source.

While names were not discussed, the sources did specify that equal focus would be paid on professional qualifications of Ministers as well as community representation issues. “You will have MBAs, postgraduates, PhDs and many will be from the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, OBC and also women,” said the source.

New Ministry

The government has also decided to create a separate ‘Ministry of Cooperation’ with the aim of ‘Sahkar se Samriddhi’ (prosperity through cooperatives).

The Ministry will provide a separate administrative, legal and policy framework for strengthening the cooperative movement in the country.

It will, said government sources, “work to streamline the processes for ease of doing business for cooperatives and enable development of multi-State cooperative societies.”

The creation of a separate Ministry for Cooperation, said sources, also fulfilled the Budget announcement made by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

The government came under attack during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic for its handling of the situation, leading Mr. Modi to undertake an elaborate assessment of his Ministers, with long meetings, presentations etc. Former Chief Ministers and MPs who have had administrative experience in other States would be part of the new Cabinet. Former Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and former Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar Sushil Kumar Modi are expected to be included in the Cabinet, as is former Union Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia.

Allies and their issues

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to effect the first reshuffle in his Council of Ministers on Wednesday evening, sources said.

Former Chief Ministers and MPs who have had administrative experience in other States would be part of the new Cabinet. Former Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and former Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar Sushil Kumar Modi are expected to be included in the Cabinet, as is former Union Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia.

NDA ally Lok Janshakti Party’s Pashupati Paras is also tipped to be included in the Cabinet, setting off an angry tirade from his estranged nephew, Chirag Paswan, who said he had written to the Prime Minister not to appoint Mr. Paras as a Minister in his government on the LJP quota.

The slot became vacant after the passing away of LJP founder Ram Vilas Paswan, which also plunged the party into a split. “Making him [Pashupati Paras] a Union Minister on LJP quota isn’t possible as the party’s executive board expelled him. I have informed the Prime Minister through a letter. If he is appointed, then I shall go to court,” he said.

The Janata Dal (U) was also bargaining for more slots than they had been promised, which was basically one Cabinet post and a Minister of State berth. The party wanted two Cabinet berths. Late evening talks were being held between JD(U) national president and MP RCP Singh and the BJP national leadership in Delhi at the time of writing.

The national capital saw an influx of candidates likely to take oath as Ministers. Apart from Mr. Scindia, Mr. Paras and Mr. Sonowal, sources told The Hindu that former Chief Minister of Maharashtra and currently BJP-supported Rajya Sabha member Narayan Rane has been asked to come to Delhi. He is expected to meet Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

Rejig not the end

The extensive Cabinet rejig and gubernatorial shuffle will not be the end of political appointments, as Mr. Gehlot’s exit from the Council of Ministers also means that the BJP will have to look for another Leader of the House for the Rajya Sabha, and another member for the party’s parliamentary board, its highest decision-making body.

 


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Printable version | Sep 20, 2021 7:49:10 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/union-minister-thaawarchand-gehlot-appointed-as-governor-of-karnataka/article35163036.ece

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