Centre begins big reshuffle with Governors
The President named four new governors, including one of the NDA’s senior-most ministers Thaawarchand Gehlot, and shifted four others on Tuesday amid speculation of an imminent Cabinet reshuffle, setting in motion the Union government’s first major overhaul since it returned to power two years ago.
The appointments came as senior leaders of the Bharatya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies flew into the Capital ahead of a possible Cabinet reshuffle, the first since Narendra Modi swept back to power with an increased majority in 2019.
A Cabinet meeting is likely to be held at 11am on Wednesday and the swearing-in ceremony of new ministers may take place at 6pm, said people aware of developments.
President Ram Nath Kovind appointed Union social justice minister Gehlot as the governor of Karnataka, former Gujarat minister Mangubhai Chhaganbhai Patel as the governor of Madhya Pradesh, BJP MP Hari Babu Kambhampati as the governor of Mizoram, and former Goa minister Rajendra Vishwanath Arlekar as the governor of Himachal Pradesh.
A communiqué from Rashtrapati Bhavan also said that Mizoram governor PS Sreedharan Pillai was transferred to Goa, Haryana governor Satyadev Narayan Arya to Tripura, Tripura governor Ramesh Bais to Jharkhand, and Himachal Pradesh governor Bandaru Dattatraya to Haryana.
“The above appointments will take effect from the dates they assume charge of their respective offices,” said the statement from Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Karnataka governor Vajubhai Vala, and Jharkhand governor Draupadi Murmu were not given new roles.
The changes indicated that the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government was set to enter a new phase in its second stint, said people aware of developments, hinting that more restructuring may be seen in the party organisation and parliamentary board ahead of high-stakes election in five states next year.
The much-anticipated reshuffle is also expected to see more allies being accommodated in the NDA government; currently, only the Republican Party of India is, and the BJP is keen to shrug of the image of not being able to work with allies. The parliamentary board has five vacancies with the exit of Gehlot.
The Narendra Modi government currently has 21 Cabinet ministers, nine ministers of state with independent charge and 23 ministers of state.
It can accommodate a total of 81 members in the council of ministers, which cannot exceed 15% of the total number of members of the Lok Sabha, which stands at 545.
Currently, four ministers hold additional charges of five ministries.
After the NDA returned to power in 2019 with 324 seats, the Prime Minister appointed 53 ministers from the BJP and four from allies, including Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Ramvilas Paswan and Anant Geete.
But over the last two years, at least four positions in the council of ministers fell vacant due to the exit of the Shiv Sena and Akali Dal, the demise of ministers Ram Vilas Paswan and Suresh Angadi, and now the appointment of Gehlot as governor.
Gehlot, 73, was the government’s top Dalit leader and held the social justice portfolio since the NDA came to power in 2014. Gehlot’s elevation also means that the BJP will have to name a new leader in the Rajya Sabha.
Observers underlined that Gehlot’s new role could possibly see him as a candidate for the Vice President’s election next year.
Gehlot’s move to the Karnataka Raj Bhavan also created the fifth vacancy in the BJP’s highest decision-making body, the parliamentary board.
Currently, the seats earlier filled by former Union ministers Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj and Ananth Kumar lie vacant. One other vacancy arose when M Venkaiah Naidu became the Vice President in 2017.
Speculation about a cabinet reshuffle was first triggered by meetings between Modi, Union home minister Amit Shah and BJP chief JP Nadda on Tuesday.
Prominent among leaders who flew into the Capital on Tuesday were Rajya Sabha member Jyotiraditya Scindia, former Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal and former Maharashtra chief minister Narayan Rane.
Scindia was seen offering prayers at Ujjain’s famous Mahakal temple on Tuesday morning.
“I was on a visit to Ujjain. After completing my visit here, I’m going to Delhi,” he told reporters.
Janata Dal (United) leaders RCP Singh was also on his way to Delhi, said people aware of developments. The JD(U) didn’t find a place in the Cabinet in 2019.
Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) leader Pashupati Paras, brother of late Ram Vilas Paswan who is currently fighting over the control of the party with his nephew Chirag Paswan, is expected to find a place in the Cabinet.
The newly appointed governors said they were looking forward to the responsibility.
“President Kovind and PM Modi have shown faith in me and have appointed me as the Karnataka governor. I will live up to their expectation and do my job faithfully. I will try to resolve the issues within constitutional limits and with discussions,” Gehlot told news agency ANI.
The Karnataka government has been roiled by infighting in recent weeks with many BJP leaders calling for the resignation of chief minister BS Yediyurappa. There have been reports that a change in the state’s leadership may be imminent, with one of Yediyurappa’s sons being accommodated at the Centre.
Patel said he will try his best to fulfil his new role. “The BJP is a party which believes in taking along all communities. I thank President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union home minister Amit Shah and other leaders for giving me this new responsibility,” Patel told reporters at his residence in Navsari.
Arlekar said that Prime Minister Modi informed him about the new responsibility on Monday. “On Tuesday, I was informed about my appointment as Himachal Pradesh governor by President Ram Nath Kovind. A notification has been issued,” he said.