India's Modi adds 19 new ministers to cabinet

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expanded his council of minister on Tuesday, inducting 19 new faces in the second major revamp since his party came to power in May 2014.

The 19 from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and other members of the National Democratic Alliance took the oath of office as ministers of state, or junior ministers, in the Presidential Palace.

The only top-level change was that of Environment and Forests Minister Prakash Javadekar, who was promoted to full cabinet level, spokesman Frank Noronha said. Other major cabinet roles were not affected.

The new appointees included journalist MJ Akbar and Supreme Court lawyer, PP Chaudhary, whose portfolios were to be announced later. Five junior ministers were dropped in the rejig.

Modi, in recent interviews, said the exercise was aimed at improving the efficiency of his administration in meeting India's budget and development goals.

But party politicians and commentators say the revamp was based on political calculations and focused on induction of leaders from states that will go to polls next year, including Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state.

With a greater representation from the state as well as leaders from lower castes, the BJP hopes to appease constituents and widen its political base.

The BJP is keen to win power in Uttar Pradesh, ruled by regional parties for the past 15 years, as it regards the state as key to its re-election bid in national elections in 2019.

"Uttar Pradesh has its own importance. Keeping in mind the conditions that have been created in the state in the last 15 years, the only way to save the state is through development. And only the BJP can guarantee development," Modi told the Indian Express daily.

With Tuesday's changes, the government has a total of 78 ministers, and the constitution allows for 82.

This is the second revamp after the BJP-led NDA came to power in May 2014. The last cabinet expansion took place in November 2014, when 21 ministers were inducted.

Last update: Tue, 05/07/2016 - 16:11
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