India's Modi expands cabinet into one of biggest in recent years - Metro US

India’s Modi expands cabinet into one of biggest in recent years

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivers a speech next to Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto (not pictured), at Los Pinos presidential residence in Mexico City, Mexico, June 8, 2016. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
By Rajesh Kumar Singh

By Rajesh Kumar Singh

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi inducted 19 new ministers into his cabinet on Tuesday to bolster his two-year-old administration but drew criticism that he was backtracking on a promise of lean government.

The Indian government late on Tuesday released details of the new portfolios. Modi has moved his minister for human resources, Smriti Irani, seen as a close ally, to the textiles ministry. The minister of state for finance, Jayant Sinha, was shifted from aviation.

Prakash Javadekar, who was sworn in earlier in the day at a ceremony at the presidential palace, took on Irani’s former portfolio.

Among other big changes, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley dropped his additional charge as information and broadcasting minister.

Modi’s cabinet has now swelled to 78 – one of the biggest in years and a far cry from his 2014 election promise of “minimum government and maximum governance”.

“If this was a reform-minded government, you would be reducing the numbers of people and portfolios, shedding ministries,” said Manoj Joshi, a political expert at Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi.

“What you can read from this is that it is not particularly efficient or concerned about governance,” Joshi said, referring to Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

Modi swept to power in May 2014 on a promise of jobs and growth. Critics have questioned his government’s performance and political analysts say the ruling party suffers from a shortage of experienced members.

A number of new ministers hail from India’s “backward” castes, members of which are widely expected to play a critical role in an election in the most populous state of Uttar Pradesh next year.

That state election is likely to have a bearing on Modi’s bid to retain power in a general election due by 2019.

“His eyes are set on his re-election in 2019,” said Neerja Chowdhury, an independent political analyst. “He has given representation to the social groups that voted for him in the last general election.”

(Additional reporting by Tommy Wilkes and Malini Menon; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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