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Amit Shah in, Jaitley out as PM Modi shuffles council of ministers in new term
BJP President Amit Shah and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi | Photo Credit: Reuters

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday inducted a bunch of fresh faces in his new council of ministers, as he took the oath of office for a second time after his party won a landslide in the recently concluded general elections.

The most significant inclusion in the council of ministers this time is Amit Shah. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president, who was once the home minister of Gujarat, had chosen not to join the cabinet in 2014. He will most likely step down from the party’s top job, as the BJP follows a one-person-one-post norm. It is not yet clear who will take over the reins of India’s ruling party, which has more than 300 members in the Lok Sabha.

The other notable and surprising inclusion is S Jaishankar, a former foreign secretary and India’s ambassador to the US and China. Jaishankar had served as foreign secretary during Modi’s first term in office between 2015 and 2018, and was India’s longest-serving ambassador to China.

Many other cabinet ministers who held important portfolios in the previous government have found a place in the new council of ministers. They include Rajnath Singh (who was home minister), Nirmala Sitharaman (defence), Nitin Gadkari (highways), Dharmendra Pradhan (oil), Piyush Goyal (railways), and Prakash Javadekar (education), among others. The new portfolios will likely be announced later in the day.

While Modi retained most of the old guard in his team, there were a few exceptions, including most notably former finance minister Arun Jaitley, who opted out owing to ill health. Former foreign minister Sushma Swaraj, who didn’t contest the Lok Sabha elections due to poor health, has also been left out of the new cabinet.

Media reports said Shah is likely to be the new finance minister while Jaishankar could be the next foreign minister.

Other notable omissions from the council of ministers are Suresh Prabhu, who was earlier the commerce minister; Jayant Sinha, who was the junior aviation minister; and Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, junior sports minister. BJP leaders Uma Bharti, Maneka Gandhi were also left out.

The BJP’s ally from Bihar, the Janata Dal (United), has chosen to remain outside the Modi cabinet, as the party was reportedly not happy with the portfolio it had been offered. The party chief and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, however, said that the party will remain with the National Democratic Alliance.

As the new council of ministers gets down to business, the first task would be framing and presenting the union budget, which is likely to happen around the first or the second week of July. Since this was an election year, the government had presented an interim budget in February.

Apart from some foreign heads of state and other dignitaries, several top industrialists including billionaires Mukesh Ambani, Gautam Adani and Lakshmi Nivas Mittal attended the swearing-in ceremony in New Delhi.

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