cabinet reshuffle

‘Big message on women’s status in India’: Nirmala Sitharaman on her appointment as defence minister

The 58-year-old Rajya Sabha MP is only the second woman to take charge of the Defence Ministry after Indira Gandhi.

Newly-inducted Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Sunday said her appointment sent a “big message to the world on what the status of women is in India”, NDTV reported. Sitharaman, who was the minister of state for commerce and industry with independent charge, and two other junior ministers were promoted to Cabinet position as part of a reshuffle. Nine new figures were inducted into the council of ministers.

“This country will never stop promoting women,” she told reporters after being sworn into the Cabinet. “When somebody from a small town, who has grown into the party with the support of the leadership, is given such a responsibility...it sometimes makes you feel as though there is cosmic grace at work. Otherwise it is impossible.”

Sitharaman will take over the post from Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who has held additional charge of the portfolio since Manohar Parrikar stepped down from the role to return to Goa as its chief minister.

The 58-year-old Rajya Sabha MP is only the second woman to take charge of the Defence Ministry after Indira Gandhi. “I have to prove and perform to satisfy the goals expected of me,” she said. “It is a very big responsibility. To me, it has been a very overwhelming day.”

Jaitley will hand over charge once he returns from a dialogue on security in Japan on September 6. “It is a case where a minister performs well and earns a higher responsibility for herself,” the finance minister told reporters. “I have an extremely competent successor in Nirmala Sitharaman. she will carry the road forward.”

Sitharaman will now be the second woman in the Cabinet Committee for Security, where she will join External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. “Sushma ji paved the way, and now I have a responsibility to fulfill,” she said.

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