Following a catastrophic increase in Covid-19 cases earlier this year, twelve Indian ministers resigned on Wednesday, including the health minister.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the resignations as part of a massive overhaul ahead of seven state elections in 2022.
Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, 66, came in for particular criticism during the spike in infections in April and May.
Hospitals were running out of beds, medical oxygen, and drugs in several places, putting a strain on the health sector.
New viral strains were blamed for the Covid-19 explosion, as well as the government’s decision to allow major religious and political gatherings in January, February, and March.
In January, Modi declared victory over the virus, but opponents say his government did not take advantage of the extra time to prepare the severely underfunded health system for another wave.
India’s official death toll has risen from roughly 160 000 at the end of March to over 400 000 currently, making it the world’s third-highest.
But many experts suspect that due to undercounting and incorrect recording of the cause of death, the real number of dead could be several times higher.
Ravi Shankar Prasad, minister for law and justice and information technology, also resigned, according to a statement from the president’s office.
Prasad, 66, a close ally of Modi, was however expected to be given an important role in Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of the state elections, press reports said.
Seven Indian states are due to hold elections next year, six of them currently ruled by the BJP. They include Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, Gujarat and Punjab.
Earlier this year the BJP suffered a major setback when it failed to wrest power in the important eastern state of West Bengal from a high-profile Modi critic.