Nirmala Sitharaman, India's second female defense minister, after Indira
The highlight of the Modi government's third cabinet reshuffle is Nirmala Sitharaman. She has been appointed the defense minister, the second woman to be in charge of it after Indira Gandhi in 1980-82. Before this, she was the minister of state for commerce. It was an unexpected move: big names like Nitin Gadkari were being speculated. Find out more about the new defense minister.
Before politics, Sitharaman served at major corporates
Sitharaman had experience in the corporate world before she joined politics. She has served as senior manager at Pricewaterhouse Coopers, London, and also served briefly at the BBC World Service. She has also served at the National Commission for Women during 2003-05.
After she joined BJP, she rose up the ranks fast
During her NCW stint, Sitharaman came in touch with Sushma Swaraj who pushed her to join the BJP in 2006. In 2010, she became one of the party's six spokespersons led by Ravi Shankar Prasad, and her popularity soared within the ranks. She extensively campaigned for Modi during the run-up to the 2014 elections. That she would get into the cabinet was widely speculated.
She left a mark during her three-year stint in Commerce
When she joined the commerce ministry in May'14, the department was going through rough times- a result of the global economic slowdown. But during her three-year tenure, she was known for firmly defending her policies. She was also involved extensively in the government's startup scheme and held several negotiations with stakeholders ahead of GST. In 2016, she became the Rajya Sabha MP from Karnataka.
Did the upcoming Tamil Nadu elections play a role?
There is speculation the upcoming elections in Tamil Nadu might have motivated her promotion. BJP has been promoting Sitharaman as the party's face there. She is reportedly the first BJP leader to have proposed legalizing Jallikattu, an issue of utmost important to TN. BJP chief Amit Shah seemingly isn't happy with the party's state leadership either. Sitharaman's elevation could be an attempt at reorganization.
Sitharaman attributes promotion to "cosmic grace"
"Somebody who's come from a small town, grown into the party with the leadership's support, if given such responsibility, it just makes you feel cosmic grace is there," Sitharaman said. India's eastern and western fronts are on high alert; she has a tough job ahead.