Prime Minister Narendra Modi brought in 24 new faces to the council of ministers, striking a balance in regional representation while also taking care of the states that are set to go to polls in the near future. In doing so, the prime minister also managed to bring down the overall average age of the council of ministers to a little under 60 years, a shade younger than the previous lot, who had an average of 62 years. Another notable point of the Cabinet berth allotment is the major shakeup in the top four ranks, caused primarily by the absence of Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj and the induction of Amit Shah and S Jaishankar. Rajnath has been shifted from home to defence ministry with Shah filling up that space. Nirmala Sitharaman has been shifted to finance and S Jaishankar will take over the ministry of external affairs after working in the ministry as India’s foreign secretary.
Nirmala Sitharaman Friday assumed charge as Minister of Finance and Corporate Affairs hours after portfolios were announced.
Piyush Goyal, reassigned the charge of the crucial railway ministry, is likely to focus on safety, generation of non-fare revenue, track renewal, modernisation and increase in the production of state-of-the-art coaches in his second stint at the helm of the national transporter, official sources said Friday. Goyal, who had pushed for generating resources through non-fare revenue, had hit a stonewall during his last stint, but the minister is likely to drive this idea as he believes that this will bring in additional funds to boost the beleaguered railways’ finances.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will also be in-charge of Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, Department of Atomic Energy, Department of Space, apart from all important policy issues and all other portfolios not allocated to any minister.
Former foreign secretary, S. Jaishankar, replaced Sushma Swaraj as the Minister of External Affairs. A former ambassador to the United States and China, Jaishankar led India’s diplomatic corps during Modi’s first term before retiring in early 2018 and subsequently joining the Tata Group conglomerate.
The former foreign secretary, a surprise pick in the Modi government, carries with him more than three decades of diplomatic experience. A 1977-batch IFS officer, Jaishankar is the son of late K Subrahmanyam, one of India’s leading strategic analysts. Jaishankar was also a key member of the Indian team which negotiated the landmark Indo-US nuclear deal.
Smriti Irani was rewarded with the Women and Child Welfare ministry, a charge she will take over from her party colleague Maneka Gandhi. She will also retain her previous portfolio of textile industries. Meanwhile Piyush Goayal, a key minister in the Modi Cabinet during the previous term, will again head the Railway Ministry. A chartered accountant by profession, he will also handle the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
The list of portfolios allocated to the various ministers is finally out. There is a major shake up in the top Capinet ranks. Rajnath Singh who held the Home Ministry earlier has now got the defence ministry. Nirmala Sitharaman, the former defence minister will succeed Arun Jaitley as the finance minister. Meanwhile, Amit Shah has taken up the Ministry of Home Affairs, a portfolio he held in Gujarat Cabinet as well.
Bihar chief minister said his party was and will remain with the NDA and hold no grudges over the Cabinet berths. However, in all subtlety the key NDA ally did say that they conveyed to the party that his party doesn’t need any ‘symbolic representation’ in the government. If the BJP makes an offer which is proportionate to our strength then the JD(U) will think about it.
“They made us an offer of one seat in the council of ministers like other NDA allies. I conveyed this to the party and everyone was of the opinion that a small symbolic representation it is not required. We are anyway with the NDA. But if they talk about a symbolic representation then we will think about it. But we are not holding any grudges,” Nitish said.
The details of portfolio allocation will be out shortly and the Cabinet ministers are expected to take charge before today’s meeting in the evening. In the coming days, the prime minister would also decided on the various cabinet committees such as Cabinet Committee on Security, Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs and Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs. The Union Council of Ministers was sworn-in Thursday evening.
The first meeting of the new Union Cabinet is likely to be held Friday evening around 5.30 pm, official sources said. They said as of now there is no fixed agenda. The possible date of convening the Parliament session could be decided, they added. The newly-elected Lok Sabha members have to be administered oath.
Speculations about Amit Shah getting the next finance ministry portfolio may have caused the markets to react positively. Perhaps this the extension of a warm welcome to its own member. Amit Shah’s official profession, according to his affidavit, is share trading and even his father was a stock trader who had his own terminal.
The prime minister is scheduled to hold bilateral meetings with BIMSTEC leaders from 10.30 am onwards so it is expected that before leaving for Hyderabad House, where the meetings will take place, he will send the portfolios communication to President House for formal notification of the same.
The names included in the Council of Ministers show that the BJP tried to pull a balancing act as far as regional representation was concerned. The second Narendra Modi-led government has the maximum representation of 10 faces from the politically crucial Uttar Pradesh, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi who represents Varanasi Lok Sabha constituency, followed by seven from Maharashtra and six from Bihar.
The Modi government 2.0 also has three ministers each from Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana and Karnataka followed by two each from West Bengal, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh. The voters had given the BJP a clean sweep in Gujarat, Rajasthan and Haryana.
The states of West Bengal and Odisha gave massive gains to the Bharatiya Janata Party as it won 303 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha in the national election.
West Bengal, where Assembly polls are due in 2021, gave the saffron party 18 MPs. However, it is being represented by only two ministers– Babul Supriyo and Debasree Chaudhuri.
Odisha, where the BJP won eight seats, is being represented by Dharmendra Pradhan and Pratap Chandra Sarangi. Pradhan has been elected to the upper house from Bihar.
The new Council of Ministers has representation from almost all the states, except Andhra Pradesh and the north-eastern states of Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Sikkim and Tripura.
Besides Modi, the ministers representing Uttar Pradesh are Rajnath Singh, Smriti Irani, Mahendra Nath Pandey, Sanjeev Balyan, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, V K Singh, Santosh Gangwar, Hardeep
Singh Puri and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi. The BJP won 62 seats in the state while its ally bagged two.
Ministers from Maharashtra include Nitin Gadkari, Prakash Javadekar, Piyush Goyal, Arvind Sawant, Danve Patil, Ramdas Athawale and Shamrao Dhotre while those from Bihar Bihar include
Ram Vilas Paswan, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Giriraj Singh, R K Singh, Ashwini Kumar Choubey and Nityanand Rai, while those.
Uttar Pradesh sends the maximum of 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha, Maharashtra and Bihar send 48 and 40 MPs respectively.
Modi gave representation to members from Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand as the states will be going to polls later this year.
Jharkhand is being represented by Arjun Munda while Naqvi, who is a Rajya Sabha member from the state, hails from Uttar Pradesh. Despite the BJP bagging all seven parliamentary seats in Delhi, only Harsh Vardhan– the winning MP from Chandni Chowk– could find place in the Modi 2.0 cabinet.
Also inducted into the cabinet were Nirmala Sitharaman, a Rajya Sabha MP from Karnataka who hails from Tamil Nadu and with V Muraleedharan, who represents Kerala in the Council of ministers but has been elected to the upper house from Maharashtra.