Mere days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi enacted a huge Cabinet reshuffle, there have been some more changes in the list of ministers in the council. The biggest among them is Najma Heptulla resigning as the minority affairs minister, and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi being given independent charge of the portfolio.
According to an official statement from the President's Secretariat, President Pranab Mukherjee had accepted the resignation of Heptulla and Karnataka-based Lok Sabha member GM Siddeshwara. Apparently, both ministers were expected to go, but for different reasons.
The statement also said singer-turned-politician Babul Supriyo had been shifted as the Minister of State (MoS) from the ministries of Urban Development, as well as Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, and reappointed MoS at the Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises.
Each of these changes are politically significant. For example, Modi's vision to not let his Cabinet as well as the BJP leadership get too old is believed to have been reflected in the resignation of Heptulla. With her gone, there is one less ministers in the cabinet who is more than 75 years of age, a number that has also come into play in the party fold, and resulted in veterans like LK Advani and MM Joshi being relegated from the circles of power and their political ambitions smashed.
Interestingly, Kalraj Mishra, who continues as the minister for Medium and Small Scale Enterprises, is also more than 75 years old. However, he not being removed from the post could be chalked to Modi's and the BJP's calculations for the upcoming Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, from where Mishra hails.
Similar calculations could be attributed to the elevation of Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi as the minorities affairs minister, as he too is an MP from UP. And his elevation is especially significant, because he is not only a minority face in a party that is considered saffron and right wing, but also the BJP's answer to detractors who say the party is looking to polarise people in the state along communal lines, and cite the Kairana bogey as an example.
Meanwhile, Davangere MP GM Siddeshwara's resignation as MoS for heavy industries and public enterprises -- a post Supriyo has filled -- was to have been tendered during the initial reshuffle, but he is believed to have asked the powers to let him delay it in light of a function in his constituency for his birthday, which was around the time of the reshuffle. The move helped him avoid a possible embarrassment.