Gujarat Cabinet overhaul: All former ministers dropped

BJP drops all ministers of previous Gujarat government, 24 fresh faces sworn in new CM's team

The party didn't repeat a single minister from the previous government

A total of 24 ministers, including two women, were sworn in by governor Acharya Devvrat in a function held at Raj Bhawan in Gandhinagar. Credit: Special Arrangement

A day after it cancelled the oath-taking ceremony following infighting over expansion of the new cabinet, the BJP on Thursday brought all new faces in chief minister Bhupendra Patel's team and dropped all the former ministers who were part of the previous Vijay Rupani government.

A total of 24 ministers, including two women, were sworn in by governor Acharya Devvrat in a function held at Raj Bhawan in Gandhinagar.

In an unprecedented move, the party didn't repeat a single minister from the previous government. The list included ex deputy chief minister Nitin Patel, education minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama, minister of state for home Pradipsinh Jadeja and energy minister Saurabh Patel, among others.

Read | New ministry in Gujarat: CM Patel keeps Home, Desai gets Finance

Ten of the MLAs were sworn in as cabinet ministers, five minister of state (independent charge) and nine others took oath as minister of state. 

MLAs Rajendra Trivedi, Jitu Vaghani, Hrishikesh Patel, Purnesh Modi, Raghavji Patel, Kanubhai Desai, Kiritsinh Rana, Naresh Patel, Pradeep Parmar and Arjunsinh Chaudhri took oath as as cabinet ministers, Harsh Sanghvi, Jagdish Panchal, Brijesh Merja, Jitub Chaudhary and Manisha Vakil were sworn in as Ministers of State (Independent Charge). Mukesh Patel, Nimisha Suthar, Arvind Rayani, Kuber Dindor, Kirtisinh Vaghela, Gajendrasinh Parmar, R. C. Makwana, Vinod Mordiya and Devabhai Malam were sworn in as ministers of state.

The party's decision to not repeat any of its ministers, deepened the impression about the anti-incumbency of the BJP government and gave a tool to the Opposition Congress to raise questions about the much hyped "Gujarat model" and "competence" of the BJP regime. 

Gujarat is the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah.

AICC communication department chief Randeep Surjewala, who was earlier dismissive of replacement of Rupani saying it showed "failure of Prime Minister's and Home Minister's leadership", on Thursday mocked the "Gujarat model of Modi/Shah".

"In order to hide their all round failures and show themselves clean, all the 24 ministers of the Rupani Cabinet have been shown the door. Mr Modi, why were they made ministers in the first place if all of them were incompetent and if they were competent, why were they removed? How long will you befool people? The nation wants answers," Surjewala said.

However, the BJP called it an "Abhinav Prayog" (new experiment) in Indian politics for "consistency and continuity" in Gujarat politics.

Only the Pinarayi Vijayan government in Kerala earlier this year had removed all sitting ministers except chief minister Pinarayi himself but the change in Kerala had happened after the elections, when a new government was sworn in unlike in Gujarat, where drastic changes were carried out in the incumbent government months before elections. Also in the case of Gujarat, even the Chief Minister was changed.

Out of 25 ministers in the cabinet, 23 are first-timers with no prior experience in government that includes chief minister Patel himself.

Three of them are Congress turncoats including Jitu Chaudhary, Brijesh Merja and Raghavji Patel. Only three new ministers have previous ministerial experience that includes Raghuji Patel, who was a minister in ex-chief minister Shankersinh Vaghela government, Kiritsinh Rana had served in Keshubhai Patel's government and Rajendra Trivedi was a minister in Anandiben Patel's government.

Among the 22 experienced ministers, part of erstwhile Rupani government who couldn't make the cut, the prominent ones are former deputy chief minister Nitin Patel, minister of state for home Pradipsinh Jadeja, education minister Bhupendra Chudasama and energy minister Saurabh Patel, among others.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeted the new ministers, hailing them as "outstanding Karyakartas who have devoted their lives to public service and spreading our Party’s development agenda".

BJP's Gujarat incharge Bhupendra Yadav told reporters in Gandhinagar, "This has been the practice of the BJP to promote new leadership. This is a natural process for the party to maintain continuity and consistency. One can take it as an inspiration that the party has been created through a democratic experimentation. The party has served people of Gujarat for nearly three decades and made it number one in the country. This is a new experiment for consistency and continuity in Indian politics."

Yadav, however, declined to answer questions on the need for this "experiment". He also denied any conflict within the party over dropping of several party veterans including ex-deputy chief minister Nitin Patel.

Earlier on Wednesday, the party had to cancel the oath-taking ceremony of the new cabinet following dissent. Later on Thursday, Patel announced that he would contest 2022 polls from Mehsana at any cost.

Later in the day, Chief Minister Patel allocated portfolios to the new ministers. General Administration, Home, Urban Development, ports and policies among others have been kept with the chief minister, while Rajendra Trivedi, the former speaker, has been allocated Revenue, Law and justice, and parliamentary affairs. Jitu Vaghani is the new education minister, Purnesh Modi, who is known for filing a couple of defamation cases against Congress ex-president Rahul Gandhi, is the road and building, civil aviation and tourism minister, Raghavji Patel is the agriculture minister.

In the new cabinet, maximum of seven ministers including the chief minister, are from the influential Patidar community, six from Other Backward Caste (OBC), 3 tribals, two dalits and one minister from Jain community have been handpicked by the party high command.

The party has picked up a record seven ministers from Saurashtra region, a traditionally BJP bastion, which had sort of drifted away from it in 2017. The region has 54 Assembly seats, of which Congress had bagged a whopping 32 seats in the last polls, a key factor that limited the BJP to 99 seats in the state polls then.

South Gujarat, especially Surat, which has been BJP's fortress over the last two decades, has got prominence in the new Cabinet. It was Surat, which had saved the saffron party from the near defeat in 2017 polls.

However, the Aam Aadmi Party's rise in the municipality elections in February this year has given the BJP its biggest scare. The Delhi-based party won 27 seats with the help of Patidar votes. The party has picked up four ministers from Surat alone, the biggest numbers for a city. Besides, three other ministers have been inducted from the region.

Two women MLAs from central Gujarat - Manisha Vakil and Nimisha Suthar - have also been inducted into the Cabinet. Vakil is the new women and child development, social Justice and empowerment minister, while Suthar is tribal development, health and family welfare minister.

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