India’s Modi expands Cabinet as state elections approach

NEW DELHI, July 5 (UPI) — India’s government now has 80 ministers, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi expanded his Cabinet on Tuesday in anticipation of upcoming state elections.

Seven of the 19 new member of the council of ministers are from states with upcoming elections, as Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, which holds a majority in the lower house of Parliament, seeks to consolidate power in states which can help it in controlling the upper house. Seventeen of the new appointees are in the BJP.

The council of ministers serves as the prime minister’s Cabinet.

Five members of Modi’s council of ministers were dropped, bringing the total to 80, two fewer than the constitutional maximum. The expansion contradicts Modi’s election campaign of two years ago, the slogan for which was “Minimum Government, Maximum Governance.”

Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, who comments on Indian politics and has written a Modi biography, told Bloomberg News, “This is a superficial restructuring.”

“He just accommodated various interest groups within the party, keeping state elections in mind. This will not fulfill the lack of talent in the council of ministers and does not address the basic necessity to give greater momentum to the government.”

Modi’s approval rating remains high, with the Indian government’s budget this year emphasizing the country’s rural concerns. Lack of adequate support in the upper house has stopped Modi’s interest in reforming India’s land and labor laws, and a promise to double farm incomes within five years indicates the farming sector of the economy is expected to grow faster than the general economy.

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