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A rejig with an eye on ability and politics

Last updated on: September 03, 2017 14:17 IST

The focus is not only on governance but also to ensure that the BJP's political considerations are taken care of.

President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice President Muppavarapu Venkaiah Naidu, Prime Minister Narendra D Modi with Cabinet Ministers (to his right) Dharmendra Pradhan, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Minister of State Shiv Pratap Shukla after the reshuffle.

The induction of nine ministers and the promotion of four others to Cabinet rank is being seen as Prime Minister Narendra Modi's focus not only on governance but also to ensure that the Bharatiya Janata Party's political considerations are taken care of.

Dharmendra Pradhan, who took oath as a Cabinet minister, has emerged as the party's face in Odisha and become one of its visible leaders as the party has highlighted the 'success' of his ministry's scheme of giving free LPG connections to the poor in its political campaigns.

Odisha is among the states high on BJP President Amit Shah's priority list for the 2019 Lok Sabha election.

Pradhan's promotion about 20 months before the Lok Sabha as well as Odisha assembly polls can be a boost to the party in the coastal state.

Both these elections are likely to be held there simultaneously.

 

Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi's propomotion and the induction of former IAS officer Alphons J Kannanthanam may help the BJP in its minority outreach.

Alphons, whose administrative capabilities had often come in for praise when he was a bureaucrat, is a Christian from Kerala, a state where the BJP has been working hard to emerge as a potent force.

The BJP has wooed Christians whose numbers are significant in Kerala but not with much success so far.

Naqvi, well liked for his affable and easy going manner, will be the only Muslim Cabinet minister in the Modi government.

Among the nine new ministers, three are Brahmins -- Shiv Pratap Shukla, Ashwini Kumar Choubey and Anant Kumar Hegde; two Rajputs, R K Singh and Gajendra Singh Shekhawat' one Jat in Satyapal Singh and Virendra Kumar, a Dalit.

Two others are from minority religions -- Hardeep Puri, a Sikh and Alphons, a Christian.

The induction of Shukla, a Rajya Sabha member who does not enjoy the best of equations with Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Aditynanath, is seen an attempt by the party to keep Brahmins, a faithful support base, in good humour.

Choubey shares a good rapport with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, but has had an uneasy relationship with BJP leaders like Sushil Kumar Modi in Bihar, a state the Buxar MP hails from.

With the BJP focused on expanding its outreach among OBCs in the state, Choubey's induction in the Union government is seen as a balancing act by the party.

It is the rehabilitation of R K Singh who had lashed out at the party over its choice of candidates following its loss in the Bihar assembly polls in 2015 that has surprised many when it appeared that he had been left out in the cold.

The former home secretary's administrative track record and image for honesty besides his Rajput origins might have come to his rescue after Modi decided to drop Rajiv Pratap Rudy, another Rajput leader from Bihar.

Former Mumbai top cop Satyapal Singh has been seen as an obvious choice after Sanjeev Balyan, also a Jat leader, was asked to quit ahead of the ministerial rejig.

Singh had humbled RLD chief Ajit Singh in his pocket borough of Baghpat in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and his elevation can help the BJP strengthen its hold on the Jat community which is politically influential in western UP, Rajasthan and Haryana.

Virendra Kumar is a Dalit leader from Madhya Pradesh which goes to the polls later next year. A six-term Lok Sabha MP, he has long been associated with the RSS.

Hegde is a five-term Lok Sabha member from poll-bound Karnataka and is known for his pro-Hindutva leanings.

The new ministers are also a mix of parliamentary experience and administrative capabilities. R K Singh, Satyapal Singh and Shekhawat are all first time MPs.

Shekhawat, whose state Rajasthan goes to the polls later next year, has impressed many with his research when he speaks in the Lok Sabha and has been a regular presence in Parliament.

IMAGE: President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice President Muppavarapu Venkaiah Naidu, Prime Minister Narendra D Modi with Cabinet Ministers (to his right) Dharmendra Pradhan, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Minister of State Shiv Pratap Shukla after the reshuffle.
Photograph: Kamal Kishore/PTI

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