Nirmala Sitharaman was appointed the defence minister on Sunday, as part of the Centre’s Cabinet reshuffle. She was the minister of state for commerce and industry with independent charge. Sitharaman is only the second woman to become India’s defence minister, after Indira Gandhi. However, she is the first woman to hold complete charge of the ministry.
Suresh Prabhu, who resigned as the railway minister, was given charge of the Commerce Ministry. Piyush Goyal, former power minister, will now head the Railway Ministry.
Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, who was the minister of state for parliamentary affairs, was elevated to the Cabinet rank and will now head the ministry. Dharmendra Pradhan was also elevated to the rank of the petroleum minister from the junior minister’s post. Pradhan was given additional charge of the Skill Development and Entrepreneurship Ministry.
Uma Bharti got the Cabinet portfolio of the drinking water and sanitation minister. Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari got additional charge of the Water Resources Ministry, which was Bharti’s earlier responsibility.
Vijay Goel, who was the sports minister, is now a minister of state in two departments – the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs and the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore has independent charge of the Sports Ministry.
Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar has been given additional charge of the Ministry of Mines. Santosh Gangwar, who was the minister of state (independent charge) for finance now holds the position in the Labour and Employment Ministry.
Nine new ministers were sworn into Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s council of ministers, at a ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan on Sunday morning. President Ram Nath Kovind administered their oath of office.
Hardeep Singh Puri is the new minister of state (independent charge) for housing and urban affairs. Ananthkumar Hegde took oath as a minister of state in the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship. Alphons Kannanthanam is the minister of state (independent charge) for tourism and a minister of state for electronics and information technology.
Raj Kumar Singh is the minister of state with independent charge of the ministries of power and new and renewable energy. Ashwini Kumar Choubey is the minister of state for health and family welfare. Shiv Pratap Shukla took oath as the minister of state in the Ministry of Finance. Virendra Kumar was sworn in as the minister of State in the ministries of women and child development and minority affairs.
Gajendra Singh Shekhawat is the minister of state for agriculture and farmers welfare. Satya Pal Singh is the minister of state in two ministries – human resource development and water resources.
Highlights from the ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan:
11.09 am: The swearing-in ceremony concluded.
11.01 am: Diplomat Hardeep Singh Puri, Lok Sabha MP Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Lok Sabha MP from Baghpat Satya Pal Singh and former bureaucrat Alphons Kannanthanam also take oath as ministers.
Puri is a former Indian Foreign Service officer and the current president and chairman of think tank Research and Information System for Developing Countries. Shekhawat is the Lok Sabha MP from Jodhpur, Rajasthan. Satyapal Singh is a former Indian Police Service officer who was the Mumbai police commissioner. Kannanthanam is a former IAS officer and a practicing advocate.
10.55 am: RK Singh, a former Indian Administrative Service officer who retired as home secretary and is currently the Lok Sabha MP from Bihar’s Arrah constituency, is sworn in as a minister of state.
10.53 am: Virendra Kumar, the Lok Sabha MP from Tikamgah in Madhya Pradesh, and Anant Kumar Hegde, MP from Uttara Kannada seat of Karnataka take oath as ministers of state, ANI reports.
10.52 am: Ashwini Kumar Choubey, a Lok Sabha MP from Buxar in Bihar, takes oath as a minister of state, ANI reports.
10.49 am: Shiv Pratap Shukla, an MP from Uttar Pradesh, sworn in as a minister, ANI reports.
10.48 am: Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi sworn in as a Cabinet minister. He was earlier Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs.
10.46 am: Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal once again takes oath, ANI reports.
10.45 am: Nirmala Sitharaman takes oath as a Cabinet minister. She was earlier the Minister of State for Commerce.
10.42 am: Dharmendra Pradhan takes oath as a Cabinet minister, ANI reports.
10.37 am: Vice President Venkaiah Naidu arrives at Rashtrapati Bhavan for the ceremony, The Indian Express reports.
10.31 am: Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives for the oath taking ceremony, reports ANI.
10.24 am: Union Minister Uma Bharti is not present at the ceremony as she is at an event in Varanasi, ANI reports.
10.20 am: All the new ministers arrive at the Rashtrapati Bhavan for the ceremony.
9.43 am: “I am thrilled, I was not expecting this,” Alphons Kannanthaman told ANI.
Meanwhile, Union Minister Suresh Prabhu tweeted his thanks to his “rail family” stating that he would “cherish the memories”. Prabhu had offered to resign as the Railway Minister on August 23, following two consecutive train accidents in a week. He said Modi had asked him to wait.
Reactions to the Cabinet reshuffle
Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad Yadav took a jibe at his estranged alliance partner Janata Dal (United) chief and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar over reports that he was not invited to the ceremony. “One who leaves his people will not be accepted by others. It is Nitish Kumar’s fate,” Lalu Yadav said to ANI.
But, JD(U) leader KC Tyagi said it was an internal reshuffle by the BJP, and not the National Democratic Alliance, so the party would not comment on it.
Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut was dismissive. “This reshuffle, and the one before this were only BJP reshuffles, not of the NDA,” he said. Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said the government’s image had already been tarnished. “Whatever changes they make, it’s tough to rebuild the image.”
However, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Dharmendra Pradhan, who were both promoted to Cabinet rank on Sunday, praised Modi.
“I am grateful to PM Modi. We will be working together to make India a leading nation by 2022,” Pradhan said. Naqvi said his duty was to match up to Modi’s expectations. “We pledge to carry on our duties honestly.”
Minister Uma Bharti, who did not attend the ceremony, said she was not angry with the government. “My programs were already fixed, I am not angry,” she said.
Union ministers Bandaru Dattatreya, Nirmala Sitharaman, Uma Bharti, Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Radha Mohan Singh, Sanjeev Balyan and Giriraj Singh had resigned from their posts in the run up to the Cabinet reshuffle.