New Delhi, July 7: Ahead of a cabinet reshuffle, many Union ministers, including Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal "Nishank" and Chemicals and Fertilisers Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda, resigned on Wednesday.
Besides Pokhriyal, Vardhan and Gowda, who were cabinet ministers, Labour Minister Santosh Gangwar, Minister of State for Education Sanjay Dhotre and Minister of State for Women and Child Development Debasree Chaudhuri have also quit.
Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, whose handling of the COVID-19 crisis drew flak from critics, too resigned from the Union Council of Ministers on Wednesday, official sources said.
Vardhan, a doctor himself, had been in charge of the health ministry as well as the science and technology ministry as the pandemic broke. However, his comments in the middle of the crisis were slammed by critics as insensitive and ignorant of the ground reality.
The resignation came hours before Prime Minister Narendra Modi carries out a major expansion and reshuffle of his Council of Ministers in which 43 new members are expected to take oath.
Pokhriyal, who tested positive for COVID-19 on April 21, was admitted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) here in June again following post-COVID complications. He has resigned from his post citing health reasons, sources said. The former Uttarakhand chief minister took charge as the HRD Minister in May 2019.
Dhotre, who represents the Akola Lok Sabha constituency in Maharashtra, also took charge as the MoS for Education, Communications and Electronics and Information Technology in May 2019.
Chaudhuri submitted her resignation in the morning, one of her close aides said. She was elected to the Lok Sabha from West Bengal's Raiganj constituency in the 2019 polls.
Asked whether he has resigned from the post of Labour Minister, Gangwar answered in the affirmative. "Yes, I have resigned," he told PTI.
Gangwar said he was not aware of what his new role in the government will be.
This will be the first reshuffle in the Council of Ministers by Prime Minister Narendra Modi since he assumed charge for a second term in May 2019.
The prime minister is expected to bring in young faces and give representation to various social groups and regions in the reshuffle.
Ahead of the Union Cabinet expansion on Wednesday evening, ministerial probables met the PM at his residence.
Those who met Modi included the BJP's Narayan Rane, Sarbananda Sonowal, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Ajay Bhatt, Bhupender Yadav, Shobha Karandlaje, Sunita Duggal, Meenakshi Lekhi, Bharati Pawar, Shantanu Thakur and Kapil Patil, the JD-U's R C P Singh, the LJP's Pashupati Paras and the Apna Dal's Anupriya Patel.
Some ministers of state, including G. Kishan Reddy, Parshottam Rupala and Anurag Thakur, were also there, and they may be elevated, the sources said.