NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi finally shuffled his Council of Ministers around, taking care not to stir a hornets nest by retaining the top three---Arun Jaitley (Finance), Rajnath Singh (Home), Manohar Parrikar (Defence). As for the rest, it is a little bit of Uttar Pradesh with an eye on the polls, and a little bit of reward for services well rendered for the minority representatives, with the RSS nodding in approval of the 19 inducted.

Five ministers were dropped and judging from the fact that they were barely heard of, or from, PM Modi’s decision seems sound. Minister of State for Human Resource Development Ram Shankar Katheria, Minister of State for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation Sanwar Lal Jat, Minister of State for Tribal Affairs Mansukhbhai D Vasava, Ministers of State for Agriculture M K Kundariya, and Minister of State for Panchayati Raj Nihal Chand have been asked to leave and although no reasons were given clearly non performance was the determining factor.

Of all the BJP spokespersons included in the first Council of Ministers, clearly only Prakash Javadekar has made the cut. He is the sole minister to be elevated to Cabinet rank with the hopefuls like Piyush Goyal whose name has been in circulation for this promotion remaining disappointed. This despite any number of reports in the media commending Goyal on his ‘performance’ and even at one stage, suggesting that he could be the replacement for Arun Jaitley in Finance.

No real surprises, except perhaps the inclusion of journalist, BJP Spokesperson MJ Akbar into the Council of Ministers. But this too was almost certain when he was given a second full term Rajya Sabha nomination by the BJP, a sign that his one year in the Upper House in a seat that had just a year remaining, had gone to the satisfaction of the top brass. Akbar now joins Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi who is a trusted Vice President of the party and Minister of State of Parliamentary Affairs.

S.S.Ahluwalia has also been brought into the Council of Ministers, as has Dalit leader Ramdas Athawale, chief of the Republican Party. He was so excited with the nomination that he forgot to mention his own name while taking the oath, and was corrected by President Pranab Mukherjee.

The faces are largely lacklustre with the media hype of course insisting that the inclusions will make a difference amongst Dalits, Sikhs, Muslims, Brahmins, and of course the forthcoming Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections. However, the stature of the new ministers falls far short of influence, with most of them being politicians with either no constituency, or at best local influence in their respective constituencies.

The list :

SS Ahluwalia, 65, Lok Sabha MP from Darjeeling

Ramesh Chandappa Jigjinagi, 64, Lok Sabha MP from Bijapur (Karnataka)

Parshottam Rupala, 61, Rajya Sabha (Gujarat)

MJ Akbar, 65, Rajya Sabha (Madhya Pradesh)

Arjun Ram Meghwal, 65, Lok Sabha MP from Bikaner (Rajasthan)

Anil Madhav Dave, 59, Rajya Sabha, Madhya Pradesh

Vijay Goel, 62, Rajya Sabha (Rajasthan)

Rajen Gohain, 65, Lok Sabha Nawgong (Assam)

Mahendra Nath Pandey, 58, Chandauli (Uttar Pradesh)

CR Chaudhary, 68, Lok Sabha MP from Nagaur (Rajasthan)

PP Chaudhary, 63, LS MP from Pali (Rajasthan)

Ramdas Athawale, 56, Rajya Sabha (Maharashtra)

Subhash Ramrao Bhamre, 62, LS MP from Dhule (Maharashtra)

Jaswant Sinh Bhabhor, 49, LS MP from Dahod (Gujarat)

Mansukh Mandaviya, 44, Rajya Sabha (Gujarat)

Faggan Singh Kulaste, 57, LS MP fro Mandla (Madhya Pradesh)

Ajay Tamta, 43, LS MP from Almora (Uttarakhand)

Anupriya Singh Patel, 35, LS MP from Mirzapur (Uttar Pradesh)

Krishna Raj, 49, LS MP from Shahjahanpur (UP)