New team :Nirmala Sitharaman and Piyush Goyal will take charge of India’s Defence and Railways, respectively, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday elevated them and two other junior ministers to Cabinet rank and inducted nine new faces — four of them former bureaucrats — as Ministers of State (MoS).
Besides Sitharaman and Goyal, two other junior ministers who got promotion are Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Dharmendra Pradhan, as PM Modi tries to strengthen his core team ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Sitharaman will take Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s additional charge of Defence with India looking to modernise the armed forces and bolster its economy. Her Commerce & Industry Ministry, where she was seen as a tough negotiator, went to now ex-Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu.
Goyal has moved out of Power but retained Coal. Credited with boosting the coal mining sector, he will also expect to revamp the world’s fourth-biggest rail network hit by a spate of accidents. Naqvi keeps Minority Affairs Ministry. Pradhan has retained Oil, and also got Skill Development from Rajiv Pratap Rudy who quit on Thursday.
The nine new faces as MoS include:
Former Mumbai Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh (HRD and Water Resources), Ex-Home Secretary and MP from Bihar’s Arrah RK Singh (Power & New and Renewable Energy).
The Council will also have former Delhi Development Authority chief Alphons Kannanthanam (Tourism, and Electronics & IT) and former diplomat Hardeep Singh Puri (Housing & Urban Affairs). Housing & Urban Affairs fell vacant after Venkaiah Naidu became Vice-President. Alphons is known as Delhi’s demolition man for launching a crackdown on illegal structures. The choices reflect the government’s focus on professionalism and administrative experience. Apart from Satyapal Singh, the other three got Independent charge.
Other five first-time MoS inductees are:
Sagar (Madhya Pradesh) MP Virendra Kumar (Women & Child Development and Minority Affairs), Uttara Kannada (Karnataka) MP Anant Kumar Hegde (Skill Development), Jodhpur MP Gajendra Singh Shekhawat (Agriculture & Farmers Welfare), Buxar (Bihar) MP Ashwini Kumar Choubey (Health & Family Welfare) and RS MP from UP and ex-IPS officer of Maharashtra cadre Shiv Pratap Shukla (Finance).
The council of ministers now has 76 members, up from 73. The upper constitutional limit is 81. This was the third expansion/reshuffle since Modi took over about three years ago. There is a possibility of some more members coming in from allies like JD(U), Shiv Sena and potential ally AIADMK in the coming weeks.
Transport and Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari has got the additional charge of Water Resources and PM Modi’s pet project of cleaning the Ganga, which has not shown much headway, from Uma Bharti who has shifted to Drinking Water & Sanitation. Jaitley has retained Corporate Affairs and will attend an international meeting of Defence Ministers in Japan, for which he left India on Sunday night.
Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, MoS in the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, replaced Vijay Goel in the Sports Ministry. Goel, who earlier held Independent charge, will be MoS for Parliamentary Affairs and Statistics and Programme Implementation. Smriti Irani continues as Union Minister for both Textile and I&B.
Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah met the new ministers in the morning where the PM told them to perform and “do a good job.” PM Modi left for China to attend a BRICS summit soon after the oath ceremony.
Six ministers dropped
They include Rudy, Kalraj Mishra, Bandaru Dattatreya, Sanjeev Kumar Balyan, Faggan Singh Kulaste and Mahendra Nath Singh, who made UP BJP chief before asked to resign as minister.
Earlier in the day, President Ram Nath Kovind administered the oath of office and secrecy to the new ministers. While Kalraj Mishra and Sanjeev Balyan were present, Bharti and BJP veterans LK Advani and MM Joshi skipped the oath-taking ceremony. Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad alone represented the Opposition at the event held at the Durbar Hall of the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Since its renovation, this was the first major function at the Durbar Hall. Earlier such ceremonies used to held at the Ashoka Hall.
The first to called to take oath was Pradhan. He took oath in Hindi. President Kovind made him repeat two words to correct his pronunciation. Minutes before the arrival of the President, a woman, who one of the guests, fainted. She was taken out on a stretcher when PM Modi had already taken his seat. After the event, Kovind went off to Ahmedabad on a two-day Gujarat trip. The portfolios were announced two hours after both the PM and the President had left Delhi.
Among the nine new ministers, three are Brahmins (Shukla, Choubey and Hegde), two are Rajputs (RK Singh and Shekhawat), while Satyapal Singh is a Jat (OBC) and Virendra Kumar is a Dalit.
Two others are from minority religions:
Hardeep Puri (Sikh) and Alphons (Christian).
The induction of Shukla who does not enjoy the best of equations with Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Aditynanath, is seen an attempt by the party to keep Brahmins, a key support base, in good humour.
Similarly, Hegde’s induction is seen as a balancing act in Karnataka as he does not see eye to eye to his namesake and Union Minister Ananth Kumar. Santosh Gangwar, who hitherto MoS Finance, has been given Independent charge of the Labour Ministry vacated by Bandaru Dattatreya.
MOS TO CABINET
India’s first full-fledged woman Defence Minister
Gets Rly Ministry from Suresh Prabhu. Sheds Power, keeps Coal
Naqvi Lone Muslim face in Cabinet, keeps Minority Affairs Ministry
Retains Oil. Also gets Skill Development from Rajiv Pratap Rudy
9 NEW FACES AS MOS
Virendra Kumar LS
MP from MP’s Sagar Women & Child Development & Minority Affairs
Anant Kumar Hegde
LS MP from Karnataka’s Uttara Kannada Skill Development
Gajendra Singh Shekhawat
Jodhpur MP Agriculture & Farmers Welfare
Ex-DDA chief Tourism, and Electronics & IT (Independent)
Hardeep Singh Puri
Ex-diplomat Housing & Urban Affairs (Independent) that fell vacant after Naidu became V-P
Bihar MP & Ex-Home Secy Power & New and Renewable Energy (Independent)
Ex-Mumbai police chief HRD and Water Resources
Ashwini Kumar Choubey
LS MP from Bihar Health & Family Welfare
Shiv Pratap Shukla
RS MP from UP and ex-IPS officer of Maharashtra cadre Finance
- Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari gets additional charge of Water Resources from Uma Bharti who shifts to Drinking Water & Sanitation Ministry
- Suresh Prabhu gets Sitharaman’s Commerce & Industry. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley sheds Defence, keeps Corporate Affairs