Women, minorities have little to cheer about

Women don't have much to cheer about Prime Minister Narendra Modi's exercise to expand his council of ministers, as only one found a place in the elite circle, which saw the induction of 21 fresh faces.

With the entry of Fatehpur MP Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, the strength of women in the council of ministers has risen to eight. Seven women, including Cabinet ministers Sushma Swaraj and Najma Heptulla, had taken oath on May 26 when 46 ministers were sworn in.

Women representation in the council has dropped from 15 per cent to 12 per cent with the expansion. This comes at a time when the Lok Sabha has the highest number of women—61—in its 63-year history. The BJP alone has 24 women MPs.
Jyoti, a Dalit face from Uttar Pradesh, has been chosen over many other BJP MPs, including Meenakshi Lekhi, Poonam Mahajan and film stars Hema Malini and Kirron Kher, for a place in the council of ministers.

While Jyoti is the lone woman face in the new list, senior BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi became the lone Muslim face to take oath on Sunday. Heptulla is the only other Muslim in the council of ministers.

With Shahnawaz Hussain, another Muslim leader, out of the reckoning following his shock defeat, the line was clear for Naqvi, but he had to settle only for a Minister of State berth while some junior to him in the party got better positions in the government.

Despite 21 new faces in the Cabinet, 13 states and Union territories are still unrepresented in the council of ministers. Prominent among them are Uttarakhand, which sent BJP MPs from all its five constituencies, and Kerala. Former Uttarakhand chief ministers B C Khanduri, B C Koshiyari and Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, all MPs now, did not make the cut. 

During the swearing-in of Modi in May, speculation was rife that party veteran O Rajagopal might find a place in the Cabinet, but he was ignored. Ditto when the names of governors were discussed.

Three states—Telangana, West Bengal and Himachal Pradesh—have found representation in the council.

With four more ministers from UP joining, the state has 12 ministers in the Modi dispensation, the highest, followed by Maharashtra (seven) and Bihar (six).

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