Prominent new faces in India's revamped Cabinet

NEW DELHI – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi reshuffled his Cabinet on Wednesday (July 7) in what was seen as a course correction amid criticism of his government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as a political reset ahead of crucial state elections.

A dozen ministers resigned as 36 new faces were inducted into the expanded Cabinet, which grew from 52 to 77.

Here are the more prominent new faces:

Health Minister Mansukh Laxman Mandaviya

Mr Mandaviya, 49, will have to quickly find his feet as India battles the pandemic and seeks to speed up its vaccination programme.

He was a junior minister in the Modi Cabinet and has made headlines for his environmentally conscious practice of riding a bicycle to Parliament.

Born into a middle-class farmer family in Gujarat, he represents the Patidar community, a politically important community in the state.

He was elected to the Upper House of Parliament in 2012 and re-elected in 2018.

Mr Mandaviya was a postgraduate political science student from Bhavnagar University. He was a member of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad – the student wing of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ideological backbone of Mr Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). He entered politics through BJP’s youth wing.

He holds the record for being the youngest member of the Legislative Assembly in Gujarat in 2002, according to his website.

Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia

A five-time MP, Mr Scindia, 50, is political royalty, belonging to the erstwhile royal family of Gwalior, whose members have served on both sides of the political divide.

His father Madhavrao Scindia, who was killed in a plane crash, was also civil aviation minister and a prominent Congress leader. But his aunts, including former Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje and Madhya Pradesh legislator Yashodhara Raje, are in the BJP.

Mr Scindia was a minister of state with an independent charge for power between 2012 and 2014 in the then Congress government.

Once considered to be extremely close to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, Mr Scindia, who graduated from Harvard University and holds an MBA from Stanford University, joined Congress in 2001 after his father’s death.

But he became disenchanted with the party, and last year he cut his long-time links with it and joined the BJP.

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Railways, Communications and Electronics, and IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw

Mr Vaishnaw, 50, is seen as a surprise entrant into the Cabinet.

He is a former government officer in the Indian Administrative Service who went on to pursue a corporate and then business career, before landing in politics. He has been a BJP MP since 2019.

As a government official, he served in the Prime Minister’s Office in the previous BJP government led by the late Atal Behari Vajpayee.

In 2004, after Mr Vajpayee lost the elections, Mr Vaishnaw worked as his private secretary till 2006, according to his website.

Mr Vaishnaw has a Master of Technology in industrial management from the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur. He also holds a Master of Business Administration from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

He has worked as managing director of GE Transportation for South Asia, and as head of urban infrastructure strategy at Siemens.

Minister of State Rajeev Chandrasekhar

Mr Chandrasekhar, 57, who described himself as a technology entrepreneur, is Minister of State for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship as well as Electronics and Information Technology.

He is an MP for Karnataka state and is serving his third term in the Upper House of Parliament as a BJP MP. His first two terms were as an independent MP.

The son of an air force officer, he studied engineering at the Manipal Institute of Technology and earned his master’s degree from the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.

He used to work at Intel as a senior design engineer and CPU architect.

Mr Chandrasekhar founded BPL Mobile – India’s first mobile network operator – in 1994, and is known to have interests in the media, hospitality technology and entertainment. In 2005, he founded Jupiter Capital, an investment and financial services firm.

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