Justice Minister Prasad, Health Minister Dr. Vardhan Quit; Experts discuss

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The long-awaited Cabinet expansion, the first since Prime Minister Modi won a second term 2 years ago, is due on July 7. The strength of the new Cabinet would stand at 78, including the Prime Minister. BJP allies would represent 4.

Prior to the reshuffle, a dozen ministers tendered their resignations. Law and IT Minister Ravi Sankar Prasad, who also holds the telecoms portfolio, resigned. Health Minister Harsh Vardhan and his deputy Ashwini Chaube also left the Cabinet.

Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal is also absent, Labor Minister Santosh Gangwar and Fertilizer Minister Sadananda Gowda. Environment and Information Dissemination Minister Prakash Javadekar has also left the cabinet

Several other ministers of state such as Babul Supriyo and Debasree Chaudhuri have also resigned. The reshuffle and expansion exercise aims to send a political message ahead of the state’s crucial upcoming elections. Former Congress Leader Jyotiraditya Scindia, as well as former Chief Ministers Sarbananda Sonowal and Narayan Rane, Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar will also be inducted.

To discuss it, CNBC-TV18 spoke with Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Executive Chairman of Biocon; AK Bhattacharya, editorial director of Business Standard; Saba Naqvi, Senior Journalist; and Pankaj Mohindroo, President of the India Cellular & Electronics Association (ICEA).

Speaking of big exits, AK Bhattacharya said, “At some level I see a sort of overhaul of economic ministries, excluding the Ministry of Finance, almost virtually all other key economic ministries have been reviewed. If you look at health and education, they are not economic ministries, but I think they were very important social sector ministries, which needed more impetus.

“The government in its second term has decided to give a boost to its economic team at the helm, which is number one. Secondly, what I see is that he is preparing for the elections next year. There are five important Assembly elections, but what is important to me is how the Ministry of Finance has been strengthened, you see the Department of Public Enterprises being placed under the Ministry of Finance, you can therefore see a Minister for Public Enterprises under the Ministry of Finance, which is a key signal that the government means when it says it wants to privatize public sector units.

Regarding the Ministry of Health, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw said, “I think the Ministry of Health needs to be revamped. I believe there has been a lot of criticism of how the Department of Health has handled COVID and we have seen a lot of concerns and voices raised on many aspects of the handling of COVID, including including the oxygen requirements, the shortage of ventilators and of course the whole vaccination process was kind of mismanaged.

“I really think we need to push a refresh button and that’s what the Prime Minister has done across the board. I believe India now urgently needs to return to economic recovery and I think this time around I hope the industry will get its fair share of attention.

Speaking about Ravi Shankar Prasad’s exit, Pankaj Mohindroo said: “In the nations competition, India have fallen behind. In 1990, our per capita income was almost equal to that of China. Today we are a fifth, so obviously there is a lot of unrest in the nation and among the people. That’s something the revamp he wants to do is to propel governance in a way that there’s more electric charge in governance.

“Ravi Shankar Prasad has been IT Minister for seven years and a lot has been achieved in those seven years. But I think this sector is so big – and I can’t explain why he chose to quit, but I’m sure he has new assignments in store for him.

For a full interview, watch the accompanying video…

(Edited by : Bivekananda Biswas)

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