Cabinet reshuffle: Interesting facts about the new ministers
In its third cabinet reshuffle, the Modi government has inducted nine new faces and promoted four Ministers of State to cabinet rank. While Nirmala Sitharaman became defence minister, Piyush Goyal got Railways. Dharmendra Pradhan (Oil) and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi (Minority Affairs) continue in their previous ministries, but at elevated positions. Know interesting facts about the new cabinet and all about the new ministers.
Here are some interesting observations about the new cabinet
Rajyavardhan Rathore is the first sportsperson to head the sports ministry. He took over from Vijay Goel. There are now six women in Modi's cabinet, including Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj. Then there's RK Singh. Twenty-six years ago, he arrested LK Advani on then Bihar CM Lalu Yadav's orders, today he took oath as MoS. Meet the new ministers below.
India's second female defence minister after Indira Gandhi
The highlight of the reshuffle was Nirmala Sitharaman, former MoS Commerce and now defence minister, the second woman to hold the portfolio after Indira Gandhi. It was an unexpected move: big names like Nitin Gadkari were doing the rounds before the announcement. Sitharaman has a history in corporate: she earlier served at PwC, London, and also at the BBC World Service.
Former power minister will now hold Railways' reins
That Prabhu would lose Railways after major train accidents was expected; now Piyush Goyal holds the charge. The former MoS for Power, Coal, New and Renewable Energy has had an impressive run. He brought in reforms, held transparent coal auctions, and upturned domestic production. As MoS, he managed to get state utilities to recast their debt and improve accountability in transmission and tariffs.
A pat on the back for the oil minister
Three years after spearheading the petroleum ministry as MoS, Dharmendra Pradhan has been promoted as cabinet minister. Known for his go-getter attitude, under Pradhan's leadership, the ministry has witnessed several reforms: diesel de-regulation, daily revision of fuel price, 'Give It Up' scheme, and breaking the Odisha-IOC deadlock over Paradip, among others. It is noteworthy his home state Odisha is heading towards elections next year.
The lone Muslim face in the Narendra Modi cabinet
Naqvi, previously the Parliamentary Affairs and Minority Affairs MoS, is now the union minister for the latter. He has always defended the government ably. Though he is in BJP, his relationship with the opposition has been more than cordial. Since long, he has also been serving as a party spokesperson. Naqvi remains the sole Muslim face in the cabinet with a full-fledged portfolio.
This minister made the first 100% literate town in India
DDA's "Demolition Man" KJ Alphons, among Time's 1994 Young Global Leaders list, is the new MoS of Tourism and IT. He had entered politics with the Left's support and joined BJP in 2011. As Kottayam district collector, he made it India's first 100% literate town in 1989. Last year, he was appointed Chandigarh's administrator, but was withdrawn after protests by the ruling ally SAD.
After four decades of diplomacy, this minister turned to politics
In his diplomatic career, Hardeep Singh Puri served as India's Permanent Representative to the UN, the ambassador to Brazil and UK, and Permanent Representative to Geneva. He's the president of the think-tank Research and Information System for Developing Countries and was the vice-president of NY's International Peace Institute. The Hindu College alumnus briefly taught at St. Stephen's. Now he's MoS Housing and Urban Affairs.
This former IAS officer oversaw major developments in security
Raj Kumar Singh has had a distinguished four-decade long career as an IAS officer before he became a full-time politician post retirement in 2013. During his tenure as Home Secretary, 26/11 attacker Ajmal Kasab and Parliament attack mastermind Afzal Guru were hanged. In 2015 Bihar election, he slammed BJP for its ticket distribution process, but seems to have made up with the leadership.
This former top cop took apart Mumbai's organized crime syndicate
Former Police Chief of Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur, Satyapal Singh once dreamt of becoming a scientist, but became a politician instead. He has been awarded for his work in naxalite area and for distinguished service. In Mumbai, he helped take apart the organized crime syndicate including the gangs of Chhota Rajan and Chhota Shakeel. Singh, who vouches for vegetarianism, has been vocal about farmers' issues.
This minister spent time in jail during the Emergency
New MoS Finance Shiv Pratap Shukla is the BJP's Brahmin face in UP. The Rajya Sabha MP has before served as minister in the UP government as well as in the Kalyan Singh government of 1991-92. During the Emergency, he was imprisoned and stayed in jail from 1975 to 1977. The Gorakhpur University alumnus is known for his initiatives in rural development.
This minister stands apart because of his simplicity
The BJP has roped in the known Dalit face Virendra Kumar as MoS Women and Child Development and Minority Affairs. He's known for his simplicity and often takes autorickshaws. The PhD holder started his career with the RSS and was active in the Total Revolution Movement in 1975. He has worked passionately for cow protection and is associated with Sagar's Gau Seva Sangh Sanstha.
This minister was caught on camera assaulting doctors
Karnataka parliamentarian Ananthkumar Hegde is the new MoS Skill Development and Entrepreneurship. He became an MP when he was 28 and has served in parliamentary committees on finance, HRD and more. The "agriculturist" faces police cases for assaulting doctors of TSS hospital this January, and for hurting religious sentiments, when he said terrorism can't be defeated till Islam is removed from the world.
This minister got Modi's attention due to a presentation
Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, MoS Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, is the National General Secretary of the BJP Kisan Morcha. He is known to be one of the better-performing Lok Sabha MPs and has raised issues like human trafficking, rehabilitation of farmers and child labour. He recently drew Modi's attention when he gave a presentation on implementation of government schemes at a recent BJP parliamentary party meet.
This minister has made headlines for his controversial remarks
Ashwini Kumar Choubey is BJP's Brahmin face in Bihar. The new MoS Health and Family Welfare played an important role in popularizing the campaign for toilets in every home. Choubey has often been in news for controversial remarks: he called Sonia Gandhi "Italy ki gudiya" and Lalu and Nitish Kumar "Ranga-Billa" (notorious criminals). He has held several key portfolios in NDA's government in Bihar.