From MJ Akbar to Athawale: Meet the prominent faces in Modi’s new ministers list

  • PTI, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jul 05, 2016 20:10 IST
Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) politician Vijay Goel takes the oath during the swearing-in ceremony of new ministers following Prime Minister Narendra Modi's cabinet re-shuffle. (AFP)

With an eye on the upcoming state polls and to give adequate representation from states where BJP is strong, four MPs from Rajasthan and three MPs each from Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat today secured berths in the Modi government.

19 MPs joined the government in the second expansion and reshuffle by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in little over two years since he took over in May 2014 which saw a number a dalit and OBC leaders being given ministerial positions.

Here’s a list of the prominent ministers who have sworn in a by President Pranab Mukherjee at a ceremony in Rashtrapati Bhawan.

MJ Akbar

MJ Akbar’s debut as a minister caps a remarkable political turnaround for the journalist and author who made a dashing foray into politics as a Congress MP in 1989.

An author of several well-received books, including a biography of Jawaharlal Nehru, he debuted in politics in the 80s thanks to his proximity to the then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and wielded considerable influence.

The 65-year-old was critical of Modi, the then Gujarat chief minister, over the 2002 riots but gradually came closer to the saffron party as he assailed the Gandhi family over its leadership of the Congress party.

Recently elected to the Rajya Sabha from Madhya Pradesh, Akbar is seen as an articulate and modern Muslim voice in the BJP as a party spokesperson. He is seen as someone who can defend the BJP over its strident Hindutva pitch with his eloquent evocation of Modi’s developmental agenda.

Read: Cabinet expansion: Modi elevates Javadekar, brings in 19 ministers, drops five

Ramdas Athawale

A prominent Dalit leader from Maharashtra, Ramdas Athawale’s induction into the Modi government is part of the BJP’s endeavour to reach out to the politically crucial segment ahead of elections in several states, including Uttar Pradesh.

Athawale, who heads the Republican Party of India (Athawale), an NDA ally, has been a trade unionist and is known for his blunt remarks and popular laughter-evoking speeches in Parliament and outside.

He has been part of the NDA since 2011 after he quit the NCP-Congress alliance. He represents Maharashtra in the Rajya Sabha and has been a three-time Lok Sabha member.

The 56-year-old leader courted controversy when he demanded firearms for Dalits for self-defence after Rohith Vemula, a Dalit research scholar in Hyderabad University, committed suicide citing caste bias on the campus.

Athawale also edited Bhumika, a weekly magazine in Mumbai, and has been a publisher for Parivartan Publications.

His real-life theatrics saw him land the title role in Marathi film Anya Yacha Pratikar and a cameo appearance in Joshi ki Kamble. He has also acted in a few Marathi dramas like Ekach Pyala.

Anupriya Patel

The OBC roots of Anupriya Patel, a first time MP who has an eloquent pro-Modi voice within and outside the Lok Sabha, have positioned her as an important ally for the BJP in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh.

The 35-year-old Lok Sabha member from Mirzapur in UP won on the ticket of Apna Dal, founded by her father and Kurmi leader Sonelal Patel that later split with the major faction siding with her mother Krishna Patel, who expelled her from the party.

Krishna Patel had warned the BJP of breaking ties in case Anupriya was included in the council of ministers. Sonelal Patel’s legacy is being claimed by his MP daughter and wife after his death in a road accident.

Anupriya’s associates say that the BJP’s support can help her claim the legacy of her father who built Apna Dal’s base among the OBCs, primarily his fellow caste men Kurmis.

With her inclusion in the cabinet, the BJP is looking to consolidate backward votes in UP, especially eastern parts of the state where another tall Kurmi leader and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar has been trying to make a foray ahead of the 2017 assembly polls.

A Lady Shri Ram College graduate, Anupriya was elected as an MLA in 2012 and entered the Lok Sabha two years later. She also has Master’s degrees in psychology and business administration. Her speeches in Parliament have often drawn praise from the treasury benches.

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SS Ahluwalia

From being a minister in the PV Narasimha Rao cabinet to a ‘research scholar’ for the BJP on various key legislations, Surendrajeet Singh Ahluwalia has links cutting across party lines and is known to speak his mind.

The Patna-based politician has often taken stands that are contrary to his party’s position.

As chairman of Joint Parliamentary Committee on the contentious land bill, the Asansol-born politician has ensured that the political divide in the panel does not disrupt proceedings. When the BJP was in opposition, Ahluwalia played a key role as a member of the JPC on the 2G scam.

Ahluwalia, often seen in bright coloured turbans, was not nominated to the key Public Accounts Committee of Parliament due to his poor attendance in panel meets.

The 65-year-old member of the Lok Sabha from Darjeeling is fluent in Bengali, Bhojpuri, Hindi, English and Punjabi. Ahluwalia has also represented Bihar and Jharkhand in the Rajya Sabha four times. He was the deputy leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha till 2012 when he lost his seat from Jharkhand.

Vijay Goel

Vijay Goel’s inclusion in the Union council of ministers marks a comeback for the leader who was virtually removed from Delhi, where he once hoped to be the chief ministerial face, and sent to the Rajya Sabha from Rajasthan.

The three-time Lok Sabha MP remained a prominent party leader in the national capital before being sidelined in the last two assembly polls. The 62-year-old leader entered the Rajya Sabha for the first time in 2014.

He was the Prime Minister’s Office minister in the first NDA government under Atal Bihari Vajpayee and as a minister of state also held the charges of youth affairs and sports and parliamentary affairs.

A media savvy politician, Goel may help his party counter AAP leader and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s consistent attacks on Prime Minister Narendra Modi that often force the top BJP brass into damage control mode. Goel’s knack of publicity over public issues is likely to come in handy.

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