Take lessons from predecessors, don’t engage media: Modi tells new Cabinet

Praising ministers who were dropped from his Cabinet for their contribution towards development, Modi cautioned the new ministers against being complacent during the COVID situation

As many as 15 new faces were inducted to the Cabinet while 28 took oath as Ministers of State during Wednesday's reshuffle. Photo: PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday (July 8) was all praises for the Cabinet ministers who were dropped in Wednesday’s reshuffle, saying they contributed in the development work executed by his government, and advised the newly-sworn in ministers to learn from their experience.

Interacting with members of the revamped Council of Ministers a day after the reshuffle, Modi said some leaders are now not part of the government due to certain situations and circumstances, in an apparent reference to Ravi Shankar Prasad and Prakash Javadekar who resigned before the Cabinet rejig.

The sources said Modi appreciated Prasad and Javadekar for their work. Other ministers who quit the government on Wednesday included Harsh Vardhan (health minister) and Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank (education minister).

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As many as 12 ministers including Vardhan and Nishank had to hand over their resignations ahead of the Cabinet rejig.

Former health minister Vardhan was at the receiving end of criticism when India witnessed a surge in COVID-19 infections in May. An acute oxygen, drugs and bed crisis, leading to the deaths of hundreds of patients every day, added to the problem.

Hinting that any complacency can prove fatal, Modi also expressed concern over the sight of crowded places with people not following COVID-19 norms, saying that there should be no space for carelessness and that a single mistake would have far-reaching impact and may weaken the fight against the pandemic.

“This is not a pleasant sight and it should instil a sense of fear in us”, he said, referring to pictures and videos of crowded places doing the rounds. People are seen without wearing masks or following the social distancing norms, he said, according to the sources.

He stressed India’s fight against the pandemic is underway with full vigour with the vaccination programme going on steadily and testing numbers also consistently high.

He added that in such a time, there should be no space for carelessness or complacency. “A single mistake would have far-reaching impacts and weaken the fight to overcome COVID-19,” a source told PTI.

“The Prime Minister said that with the COVID infection numbers being fewer than what they were in the recent months, people may want to venture out. However, everyone must remember that the threat of COVID-19 is far from over. Many other nations are seeing surges in infections. The virus is also mutating,” he added.

Modi told the ministers that the aim should not be to instil fear but to request people to keep taking all possible precautions so that the nation is able to move beyond this pandemic in the times to come.

In the meeting, he expressed concern at the persistently high number of COVID cases coming from Maharashtra and Kerala, the sources said.

He also asked his ministers to reach office on time and channelise all their energy into their ministerial work, saying their focus should be on helping the most deprived people. In a word of advice, he said it is the work that only matters and the ministers should not get trapped in the vicious circle of grabbing media attention. He said ministers should avoid making unnecessary statements.

Also read: Seven new faces in Modi’s rejigged cabinet

As many as 15 new faces were inducted to the Cabinet while 28 took oath as Ministers of State, taking the total ministerial tally from 52 to 77, during a major overhaul on Wednesday.

While several Ministers of State were promoted as Cabinet ministers, what came as shocking was the ouster of ministers such as Ravi Shankar Prasad, Prakash Javadekar, Harsh Vardhan, Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank and Santosh Gangwar.

(With inputs from agencies)