India’s New Cabinet: Many Ministers Stand Accused of Violence

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India’s New Cabinet: Many Ministers Stand Accused of Violence
India’s New Cabinet: Many Ministers Stand Accused of Violence

Narendra Modi’s new council of ministers is nothing if not very rich and very old. According to their election affidavits, 81% of them – 41 of the 58 new ministers – are over the age of 50, and 52 of them (90%) are crorepatis. The average value of assets per minister is Rs 14.4 crore. The data has been analysed and published in a report by the Association of Democratic Reforms.

A fair number of the ministers in the cabinet (22, which is 31%) have criminal cases registered against them that are still pending. There are 16 against whom the charges are particularly serious. One of them, V. Muraleedharan from Maharashtra, Rajya Sabha member of the BJP, has an attempt to murder (IPC Section 307) case against him.

The IPC Sections 153A and 295A deal with statements and actions that give rise to or promote communal disharmony. Six cabinet members, Amit Shah, Giriraj Singh, Pratap Chandra Sarangi, Babul Supriyo, Nityanand Rao and Prahlad Joshi, have charges under those sections of the penal code.  

Amit Shah, the newly-appointed home minister, has four cases registered against him that are still pending. He has been charged with, among others, IPC Section 506 (criminal intimidation), Section 436 (mischief with fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy house, etc.), Section 153A (promoting enmity between different groups) and 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration). There is some irony in the fact that the police, which reports to the home ministry, is now directly under Shah’s command.

Nitin Gadkari, Giriraj Singh and Ashwini Kumar Choubey are the three ministers against whom there are charges of electoral violations. Giriraj Singh has been charged with cheating, bribery, intimidation, forgery and fraud, and there are six pending cases against him. There are five pending cases against Gadkari, who has been charged with, among other things, illegal payments in connection with an election (IPC 171H).

Several ministers, including Amit Shah, Nityanand Rai, Ashwini Choubey, Babul Supriyo and others, have pending charges of obstructing or intimidating public servants. As ministers, they are now responsible for a large number of public servants who directly and indirectly report to them.

Amit Shah, the newly-appointed home minister, has four cases registered against him that are still pending. Credit: PTI

Many of them, including Debashree Chowdhury, Pratap Chandra Sarangi, Anurag Thakur, Arvind Sawant and others, have serious charges of violence, like IPC Section 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) and Section 147 (rioting), against them.

In terms of the assets that have been declared, Harsimrat Kaur Badal is the richest minister with Rs 217 crores. Piyush Goyal, the railways minister, is second with Rs 95 crores. Rao Inderjit Singh at Rs 42 crore and Amit Shah at Rs 40 crore are third and fourth.

All in all, there are no drastic changes with respect to the previous Modi cabinet. The number of ministers with serious criminal cases has jumped somewhat (from 11 to 16). There are fewer women in this cabinet. There were seven in the previous one, and only six in the current one. There are also fewer crorepatis (59 to 52), but also fewer ministers (64 to 56), and the percentage of crorepatis is almost the same.

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