New Delhi: Union ministers Najma Heptulla and GM Siddeshwara resigned on Tuesday, a week after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made big cabinet changes. Dr Heptulla was above 75 years in age - the ceiling for holding a cabinet post according to the unwritten rules of the party.
- Najma Heptulla, 76, resigns as Minority Affairs Minister
- Babul Supriyo takes over as MoS Heavy Industries from GM Siddeshwara
- PM Modi inducted 19 new junior ministers in Cabinet reshuffle last week
Sources said Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah had allowed a graceful exit to Dr Heptulla, who was out of the country on July 5, when five other ministers had to submit their resignations. In a statement, Ms Heptulla said she had resigned for personal reasons, and added, "I will always be available for any responsibility given to me in future."
Mr Siddeshwara, a BJP leader from Karnataka, had been replaced in the council of ministers by another leader from his party -- Ramesh Kandappa Jigajinagi.
He had been asked to resign earlier, but he bought more time from party chief Amit Shah citing his birthday. "I told them I can't possibly come to Delhi on that day," Mr Siddeshwara had told NDTV last week, confirming that he had requested the party not to embarrass him by forcing him to cancel the public meeting scheduled that day and come to Delhi to resign.
Dr Heptulla, the Minority Affairs Minister, was replaced by Minister of State Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, who has been given independent charge. The portfolio held by Mr Siddeshwara - junior minister for Heavy Industries - will be taken over by Babul Supriyo, who was the junior minister for Urban Development.
The only member above 75 in the cabinet now is Kalraj Mishra. A powerful Brahmin face from Uttar Pradesh, he is continuing in view of the next year's assembly elections in the state, sources said.
Five other ministers were dropped during the huge reshuffle of July 5 -- during which PM Modi had inducted 19 new minsters.
At the time, the Prime Minister had swapped a series of key portfolios in his cabinet. The biggest change was Smriti Irani leaving the Education Ministry to Prakash Javadekar, the sole member of the government to have been promoted to the cabinet.
With today's resignations, the council of ministers now has 76 ministers against the permissible limit of 82.