India's Modi adds Cabinet ministers, some from lower castes

AP News
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Posted: Jul 05, 2016 1:10 PM

NEW DELHI (AP) — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expanded his Cabinet on Tuesday by inducting 19 new ministers, several of them from lower castes, and unexpectedly reshuffled the portfolios of some senior ministers following his completion of two years in office.

President Pranab Mukherjee swore in the new junior ministers at a ceremony at the president's palace. Junior Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar was elevated to full Cabinet rank and given the key portfolio of Human Resources Development.

He succeeded Smriti Irani who was shifted to Textiles Ministry, the Press Trust of India news agency said. Modi apparently bowed to pressure from Irani's detractors who complained that she was meddling with the autonomy of universities and other institutions.

The key portfolios of Home, Defense, Finance and External Affairs were unchanged but Finance Minister Arun Jaitley was relieved of the additional portfolio of Information and Broadcasting Minister.

Ravi Shankar Prasad is the new Law Minister and Jayant Sinha will run the Civil Aviation Ministry

The expansion is seen as Modi's attempt to woo lower caste voters to support his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in important state legislative elections early next year in Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Punjab states.

Modi said his government intended to ensure speed and focus in development work.

Five junior ministers holding the portfolios of agriculture, water resources, river development, tribal affairs and human resource development resigned to make room for the new ministers.

Modi completed two years in office in May.

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This story has been corrected to show that Modi completed two years in office in May.