Eyeing polls, Modi backtracks on 'minimum government'
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has inducted 19 new ministers into his cabinet to bolster his two-year-old administration but drew criticism that he was backtracking on a promise of lean government.
It was the second time the premier has rejigged his government since taking power in 2014, although Tuesday's announcements saw no changes made to key portfolios such as finance, defence, foreign and home affairs.
Some social media users mocked Modi's mantra of "maximum governance, minimum government" after the reshuffle took his government to 78 ministers, up from 45 two years ago.
Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar was promoted to cabinet rank and 19 new ministers took their oaths at the Rashtrapati Bhavan presidential palace in New Delhi, while five junior ministers were dropped.
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 to aviation.
Among other big changes, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley dropped his additional charge as information and broadcasting minister.
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. All barring two are new faces while a few have been ministers in BJP-ruled state governments.
BJP's oldest ally Shiv Sena, which has been having a fractious relationship with BJP, was shut out of the expansion and consequently didn't attend the oath-taking ceremony.
"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."