PM Modi To Induct 19 Ministers To His Government Today

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19 new leaders will be inducted in PM Modi's council of ministers today

New Delhi: 

Highlights

  1. 19 new ministers will take oath, but they won't be cabinet rank: sources
  2. There are currently 66 ministers including the PM in council of minister
  3. Council of ministers can have a maximum of 82 ministers
In the first major rejig and expansion since the Narendra Modi government came to power, 19 new ministers will take oath today in the majestic Durbar Hall of Rashtrapati Bhavan.

PM Modi, however, is keeping the contours of his cabinet close to his chest. Sources say the 19 will be Ministers of State and not of cabinet rank. Top sources also said there won't be any change in the top four ministers on Raisina Hill - Defence, Home, Finance and External Affairs.

Finance minister Arun Jaitley, though, may give up the critical Information and Broadcasting ministry, as PM Modi wants to reduce his workload, sources indicated. With Sarbanada Sonowal moving to Assam as Chief Minister, the country will also get a new sports minister.

The reshuffle will require the resignation of a few ministers, since the council can have only 82. While currently, there are 66 ministers including the Prime Minister, sources said there could be as many as six exits. The resignations are likely to be secured tonight and forwarded to President Pranab Mukherjee.

Throughout the day, the BJP launched an unprecedented exercise of council probables meeting party president Amit Shah one after the other.

A government source said PM Modi had laid down the framework for selection - asking that those who can "deliver on his vision of development and priorities - 'gaon garib and kisan' (village, the poor and the farmer)," be brought in.

The expansion comes after a 45-day wait as the BJP brass tried to explain that the exercise is a departure from the past, when council was changed as per caste and other considerations. But a look at the final list reveals a careful of caste, social and regional balancing act.

Two leaders belong to the Scheduled Tribes -- Jaswantsinh Bhabhor and Faggan Singh Kulaste; five belong to Scheduled Castes -- Ajay Tamta, Ramdas Athalwale, Arjun Ram Meghwal, Ramesh Jigajinagi and Krishna Raj; two are minority leaders - MJ Akbar and SS Ahluwalia; and two are women -- Anupriya Singh Patel and Krishna Raj.

The list also is a geographical balancing act. The ministers come from more than 10 states - Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Bengal, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Uttarakhand, Karnataka and Assam.

Three are from Uttar Pradesh, a state which goes to polls in 2017 where the BJP intends to come to power -- Anupriya Singh Patel, MN Pandey and Krishna Raj.

The new entrants are a blend of professional expertise -- including a Supreme Court advocate, a cancer surgeon, a veteran editor, a former bureaucrat, a writer and a river conservationist.

Four new faces have ministerial experience at the state level in Karnataka, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh. Besides, Vijay Goel was a minister in the Vajpayee government. Faggan Singh Kulaste was also a minister in the Central government.

As for the exit list, there is no clarity on the fate of Minority Affairs Minister Najma Heptullah, who turned 75 last year - the party's age bar for ministerial berths.

After meeting the probables, Amit Shah met the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh pointsman Gopal Krishna, indicating the active involvement of the party's ideological mentor in the exercise.

After Tuesday's oath ceremony, PM Modi is expected to hold a meeting with his new council and tell them of his agenda.

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