NEW DELHI Prime Minister Modi’s confidant and BJP President Amit Shah was on Friday named the new Home Minister succeeding Rajnath Singh who was shifted to Defence in place of Nirmala Sitharaman who will be the country’s first full-time woman Finance Minister while former foreign secretary S Jaishankar, a surprise pick, got the External Affairs portfolio.
A day after Narendra Modi was sworn in as Prime Minister for a second consecutive term along with 57 ministers, the portfolios were allocated that reflected a rejig of the top four Ministries–Home, Defence, Finance and External Affairs–for a new look Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) while other portfolios largely remained with those who held them in the outgoing government.
With the induction of Shah, who helped craft his party’s recent landslide Lok Sabha poll victory, and Jaishankar, both of whom are making a debut in the Central government, there are two new faces in the all-powerful CCS which is chaired by Prime Minister Modi. The CCS is the final decision-making body on matters related to country’s security, including defence policy and internal security.
Singh and Sitharaman, who also got Corporate Affairs, continue to be in the CCS though their portfolios have been changed. Singh has been moved across the road from North Block to South Block in Raisina hill while it was the reverse direction for Sitharaman.
The portfolios of 24 Cabinet ministers, 9 Ministers of State(Independent charge) and 24 Ministers of State allocated by the prime minister were announced in a communiqué issued by the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Nearly 16 months after he retired as foreign secretary, Jaishankar’s induction is aimed at adding further strategic heft to India’s foreign policy. Jaishankar is not an MP and has to be a member within six months and he is likely to take the Rajya Sabha route.
Several ministers took charge of their departments, hours after the portfolios were announced and outlined their broad plans and challenges. They later assembled in the Prime Minister’s Office(PMO) in South Block for the first meeting of the Modi 2.0 Cabinet.
“”I am happy that there will be continuity in the work that we had begun in the first stint….Newer speed of implementing infra projects and customer satisfaction that is the new Indian Railways and new India that the PM has charted for us,” said Piyush Goyal, who retained the Railways portfolio.
Sitharaman, who did her Masters in Economics from Jawaharlal Nehru University(JNU) and is an alumnus of London School of Economics, steps into the shoes of Arun Jaitley who opted out of the new government on health grounds. She has a deputy in Anurag Thakur, a first time minister in the Modi government. Both are considered close to Jaitley.
The prime minister retains the Department of Personnel and Training(DoPT), Atomic Energy and Space as well as all important policy issues and portfolios not allocated.
Nitin Gadkari, considered one of the best performers during the first term of Modi government for his expeditious project implementation, continues to be the minister for Road Transport and Highways and was also given charge of the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises.
Goyal, who presented the interim budget earlier this year and was expected to take over from Jaitley, was also given the Commerce and Industry
However, the Coal ministry has been taken away from him and given to Pralhad Joshi, a new entrant in Modi Government. Joshi is also the minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Mines.
Giant killer Smriti Irani, who defeated Congress President Rahul Gandhi in his family bastion of Amethi, is the new Women and Child Development minister and also retained the Textile ministry,
BJP veteran Ravi Shankar Prasad got a bigger role in the government as he regained the telecom ministry, adding it to his heavyweight portfolio of Information Technology(IT) and Law and Justice.
“I am grateful to the PM for entrusting me with such responsibility. In telecom, I will first hold meetings to take a long-term view, and also see how a greater synergy can be driven in IT and communications,” Prasad told reporters.
A new Ministry of Jal Shakti has been created and Gajendra Singh Shekhawat is its Cabinet minister.
Prakash Javadekar, the outgoing Human Resource Development(HRD) minister, has been given the ministries of Information and Broadcasting as well as Environment, the two portfolios he had held in the initial years of the previous Modi government.
Javadekar invoked the curtailment of press freedom during the Emergency under the Congress rule to assert that media freedom is the essence of democracy.
Speaking to the media after taking charge of I and B ministry, he said the government not only recognises freedom of press, but cherishes it.
Former Uttarakhand chief minister Ramesh Pokhariyal ‘Nishank’ is the new HRD minister while Bihar ally and Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan remains Consumer Affairs minister.
The Agriculture ministry has been allocated to Narendra Singh Tomar, who also gets the Rural Development and Panchayati Raj portfolio.
Ujjwala-man Dharmendra Pradhan retains his Petroleum portfolio and has also been given charge of the Steel ministry.
D V Sadananda Gowda is the minister of Chemicals and Fertilizers and Narendra Singh Tomar the new minister of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Akali Dal leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal continues to be the minister of Food Processing Industries, Thawar Chand Gehlot is the new minister of Social Justice and Empowerment.
Former diplomat and union minister Hardeep Puri, who lost the elections, got more responsibility, as he is the new minister of state with Independent charge of Civil Aviation besides retaining his portfolio of MoS (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.He was also named as the MoS in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
Eight-term BJP MP from Uttar Pradesh Santosh Kumar Gangwar is MoS with Independent charge for Labour and Employment.
Prahlad Singh Patel, a five-time lawmaker from Madhya Pradesh and known for supporting ban on cow slaughter, took charge as the culture minister (independent charge) and said he would work towards “correcting the malicious perception” created about the Indian culture. He will take charge as tourism minister(independent charge) on Tuesday.
The Culture and Tourism portfolio, which was bifurcated in the previous government with Mahesh Sharma and K J Alphons holding charge respectively, is now under the charge of one single minister.
First Cabinet Decisions Focus On Farmers, Small Traders
The Modi government in its first Cabinet meeting decided to cover all the farmers, irrespective of their land holdings, under PM Kisan scheme that promises to transfer Rs 6,000 in their bank accounts, and also announced a pension scheme for traders and shopkeepers.
The revised PM-Kisan scheme envisages to cover 2 crore more farmers with an estimated expenditure of Rs 87,217.50 crore in 2019-20. The previous government had estimated annual expenditure of Rs 75,000 crore in the earlier version of the scheme.
“The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved the extension of PM-Kisan Yojana to all farmers. Nearly 14.5 crore farmers would now benefit from the scheme,” said Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, briefing the media about cabinet decisions.
The Union Cabinet also approved a proposal to provide pension cover to crores of farmers. The Centre would spend Rs 10,774.5 crore for a period of three years on this.
The decision is expected to address the farm sector distress that has gripped the rural economy for some time now. One of the key contributors to the GDP growth, the agriculture and allied activities shrank in the financial year 2018-19.
As per the official data released on Friday, the agriculture sector grew at 2.9 per cent in FY-19 as against the growth rate of 5 per cent in the previous year.
The previous Modi government had promised to double farmers’ income by 2022 by raising farm output and prices. It had raised minimum support price (MSP) of various crops including rice, wheat and pulses.
The government also approved a new scheme, which assures minimum monthly pension of Rs 3,000 to all shopkeepers, retail traders and self-employed persons after attaining the age of 60 years, fulfilling its poll promise, which will benefit 3 crore retail traders and shopkeepers.
Five crore traders are expected to join the scheme in the next three years, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar said while briefing reporters at a press conference.
“All shopkeepers and self-employed persons, as well as retail traders with GST turnover below Rs 1.5 crore and aged between 18-40 years, can enrol for the scheme,” an official statement said.
Interested persons can enrol themselves through over 3.25 lakh common service centres spread across the country. The government will make matching contribution in the subscribers’ account, the statement added.
“It is a landmark initiative of the Prime Minister for which traders across the country are really happy.