MINISTERS WITH ADDITIONAL PORTFOLIOS IN NARENDRA MODI CABINET

With vacancies in senior ministries, a cabinet reshuffle by Narendra Modi was long expected. And it has been hastened by recent political developments.

The Janata Dal (United) is set to join the BJP led National Democratic Alliance government at the centre after Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar split his alliance with RJD and Congress and joined hands with the BJP in Bihar.

This coupled with Rail Minister Suresh Prabhu’s offer to quit on moral ground after two massive train derailments in a week makes the case for cabinet reshuffle soon and according to sources it can happen anytime in the first week of September.

Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked Prabhu to wait, there are indications that his either his resignation will be accepted or his portfolio will be changed. Arun Jaitley, while reacting on Prabhu’s offer to resign, said taking accountability was a good system in government. Also, Prabhu’s previous party Shiv Sena has demanded that his resignation be accepted.

There is another speculation doing rounds that AIADMK may also join the NDA in the next round of cabinet reshuffle but it will be premature to say anything about it given the uncertainly hovering around the fate of E Palaniswami government.

After series of ups and downs, both factions of the AIADMK, headed by Palaniswami and O Panneerselvam, finally merged on August 21 but the party has been marred by Sasikala and her brother TTV Dinakaran. 19 MLAs loyal to them have revolted and they have written to the Governor demanding a trust vote, a demand echoed by Congress and the DMK.

With the move by Sasikala camp MLAs, Palaniswami government has lost its majority in the assembly. Its effective strength has come down to 115 from 134 while the majority mark in the 233 member strong assembly is 117. One seat is lying vacant after J Jayalalithaa’s death.

But whenever the cabinet reshuffle happens, all eyes will be on who all are given the responsibility to handle four vacant key ministries the additional charge of which are being held by other ministers.

MINISTRY OF DEFENCE: Arun Jaitley, Minister for Finance and Corporate Affairs, was given the additional charge of the Ministry of Defence when Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar quit in March 2017 to take oath as Goa chief minister.

MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT, FOREST AND CLIMATE CHANGE: Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Minister for Science and Technology and Earth Sciences, was given charge of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change after Anil Madhav Dave passed away in May 2017.

MINISTRY OF INFORMATION & BROADCASTING: The ministry fell vacant after Venkaiah Naidu resigned post his nomination as the Vice-Presidential nominee of the NDA last month and its additional charge was given to Textile Minister Smriti Irani.

MINISTRY OF URBAN DEVELOPMENT AND HOUSING AND POVERTY ALLEVIATION: This portfolio, too, was with Venkaiah Naidu and fell vacant after his resignation. Its additional charge was given to Rural Development Minister Narendra Singh Tomar.

©SantoshChaubey

EVEN IF HIS RESIGNATION IS ACCEPTED, SURESH PRABHU WILL ONLY BE THIRD RAIL MINISTER TO RESIGN TAKING MORAL RESPONSIBILITY

Taking moral responsibility after two major train accidents in five days, Rail Minister Suresh Prabhu has offered to resign. His offer to resign comes after resignation of Railway Board Chairman AK Mittal.

In first accident, 13 coaches of Haridwar bound Puri-Haridwar Kalinga Utkal Express derailed in Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh on August 19 killing over 20 with over 200 injured. Then this morning, in another major train derailment, 10 coaches of Delhi bound Kaifiyat Express derailed near Auraiya in Uttar Pradesh. Fortunately no one died in the accident which left over 20 injured.

Suresh Prabhu became India’s 43rd Rail Minister in November 2014 and according to the government data, over 330 people have lost their lives in 206 derailments in last three years.

If Prime Minister Narendra Modi accepts Suresh Prabhu’s resignation, it will only be the third time in the history of Indian Railways that a Rail Minister offered to resign taking moral responsibility of train accidents and his resignation was accepted.

When we chart the trajectory of Indian Railways since the first rail minister Asaf Ali, who was in-charge from September 2, 1947 to August 14, 1947, we find just two instances of rail ministers resigning on moral grounds after a major train accident.

The first one is the most quoted instance of politics of probity and integrity in public life. Then Rail Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri had resigned from his post taking moral responsibility of the Ariyalur train accident in Tamil Nadu in November 1956. About 142 people were killed in the accident.

Former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had described Shastri as a man of highest integrity after his resignation. The act had seen Shastri’s popularity surging who later on took charge of other ministerial portfolios before becoming India’s Prime Minister.

Though train accidents didn’t stop after it, it took a long gap of 43 years for a rail minister to show such a courage in the aftermath of a train disaster.

Rail Minister Nitish Kumar resigned taking moral responsibility of the Gaisal train disaster in Assam in August 1999 that had killed at least 290 people. When Nitish’s offer to resign first came on August 3, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee initially rejected it but after Nitish persisted, he finally accepted it on August 5.

There are other two known instances when Rail Ministers offered to quit owning moral responsibility of train disasters but went on to stay in the office after their resignations were rejected.

A year after Nitish’s resignation, then Rail Minister Mamata Banerjee had also offered to resign from her post taking moral responsibility after two train disasters in 2000 but after Prime Minister Atal Bihari had Vajpayee rejected her resignation, she decided to stay back.

Over a decade before it, Rajiv Gandhi’s Rail Minister Madhavrao Scindia had offered to resign after a train disaster in Kerala in July 1988. Over 100 people lost their lives when nine coaches of Trivandrum bound Island Express fell into a river near Quilon. Scindia’s resignation was rejected and he remained in the office.

©SantoshChaubey