Narendra Modi’s cabinet reshuffle, Smriti Irani, Piyush Goyal, more; an insider’s account

By: | Updated: July 17, 2016 6:38 AM

Many in the BJP were puzzled that Prakash Javadekar was appointed a Cabinet minister rather than Piyush Goyal, Dharmendra Pradhan and Nirmala Sitharaman, who are considered favourites of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, and whose names were doing the rounds. Actually, it was Javadekar’s job profile in his new ministry that helped bring about the elevation

Many in the party were puzzled that Prakash Javadekar was appointed a Cabinet minister rather than Piyush Goyal, Dharmendra Pradhan and Nirmala Sitharaman, who are considered favourites of Narendra Modi...Many in the party were puzzled that Prakash Javadekar was appointed a Cabinet minister rather than Piyush Goyal, Dharmendra Pradhan and Nirmala Sitharaman, who are considered favourites of Narendra Modi…

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Many in the party were puzzled that Prakash Javadekar was appointed a Cabinet minister rather than Piyush Goyal, Dharmendra Pradhan and Nirmala Sitharaman, who are considered favourites of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah and whose names were doing the rounds. Actually, Javadekar’s job profile in his new ministry helped bring about the elevation. He was considered a suitable replacement for Smriti Irani because of his conciliatory approach. Later, it was felt that whoever handled HRD should be promoted since the minister has to interact with senior academicians, IIM, IIT directors, etc, and demands of protocol ought to be upheld.

Word of advice
PM Narendra Modi had a meeting with the new ministers. He warned them to be careful not to break any rules as electronic snoopers were ever present, someone might be tapping their phones or using recording devices when speaking to them. Nor should they speak out of turn. And that the media and Opposition were looking to trip them up. Also, instead of wasting time in felicitation functions, they were told, they should get down to work.

House hunting
Several central ministers are keen on 12, Tughlak Road, as residence. It is not the size alone that makes the building so coveted, but the fact that it is considered lucky. The last tenant, former sports and youth affairs minister Sarbananda Sonowal, was elevated as CM of Assam shortly after moving in. The building also brought good fortune to former tenants Ajit Singh and his father Charan Singh, who became prime minister, albeit very briefly.
On the other hand, 7, Safdarjung Road, is a more spacious vacant bungalow, but there are few takers for it since it is considered unlucky. A former occupant, Pramod Mahajan, was shot by his brother. Vayalar Ravi agreed to move into the house because he said he did not believe in superstition, but his wife died of an illness during the period he occupied the bungalow.

Incidentally, retiring Rajya Sabha BJP MP VP Singh of the princely house of Badnore started a new tradition in government bungalows. He put up a plaque listing all the previous tenants at 9, Safdarjung Lane. He is the last in a long list, including Rabi Ray, Biju Patnaik, Begum Akbar Jehan, Manmohan Singh, Nanaji Deshmukh, Kalraj Mishra and Maya Singh. There is bound to be much demand for this house.

Post-scriptual
As communications minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad revolutionised the postal service thanks to e-commerce, which is very popular in the hinterland. Parcel revenues, up a mere 2% in 2013-14, shot up by 45% in 2014-15 and 80% in 2015-16. Shortly before he demitted charge, Prasad had conceived the idea of selling bottled Gangajal (from Gangotri and Rishikesh) at post offices and through delivery by postmen. Bureaucrats in the ministry were privately sceptical and keen to quietly shelve the scheme once the minister left because they feared they would have to handle a spate of complaints from dissatisfied customers. Besides, it would increase their workload. But Prasad’s successor MoS Manoj Sinha is equally enthusiastic about the concept. Sinha and Prasad launched the sale jointly in Patna last week.

Web mischief
Newly-elected BJP MLA from Assam Angurlata Deka faces the same problem as Anupriya Patel, leader of the Apna Dal, recently appointed MoS in the Modi government. Deka, an accomplished actress, has been harassed by trolls on Twitter. Someone even posted a fake photo of her on the Internet. Last week, she complained to police that communal tweets were sent out in her name from a fake account. Earlier, Patel had also filed a similar police report that fake tweets were put out in her name to damage her political and social standing.

Shah stays firm
GM Siddeshwara, MoS for heavy industries, pleaded with party president Amit Shah that he be given a few days’ grace period before being dropped as a minister. He was to celebrate his birthday in his constituency Davangere. Thousands of guests were expected and he did not want to be humiliated. Even after the birthday party, Siddeshwara tried to persuade the BJP high command to change its mind. Siddeshwara had hoped that his fellow Lingayat leader BS Yeddyurappa would speak on his behalf. But the BJP’s Karnataka chief has had no luck even in installing his favourite MP Shobha Karandlaje in the core committee of the party for Karnataka. Despite his strong recommendation, Shah had omitted her name.

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