Modi distributes portfolios

Amit Shah gets home, Rajnath defence

Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah, who scripted the party’s strategy for its stunning victory in recent national election, has been appointed India’s new Home Minister and career diplomat Subramanyam Jaishankar the Foreign Minister as Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday allocated portfolios a day after being sworn in for a second straight term as the head of government.

Rajnath Singh, who was Home Minister in the previous ministry, is the Defence Minister while Nirmala Sitharaman has been given the important portfolio of Finance which gives her the challenge of managing of Asia’s second biggest economy. Amit Shah, 54, one of the closest confidantes of Modi, has had a brilliant run in the BJP, first as the party’s Uttar Pradesh in-charge in the 2014 national elections and then as BJP president, powering the party to a bigger mandate in the 2017 assembly polls and national polls this year.

Shah was the third cabinet minister to take oath on Saturday after the Prime Minister and Rajnath Singh. Known for his organizational acumen and for being a shrewd macro and micro-level strategist of the BJP with an eye for minute details, Shah will bring these key attributes to what is effectively India’s second-most high-profile cabinet post after the Prime Minister’s.

He has had considerable ministerial experience in Gujarat where he worked closely with Modi when the latter was its three-term chief minister. Jaishankar, 64, who was India’s longest-serving Foreign Secretary from January 2015 to January 2018, has been appointed the External Affairs Minister in his debut stint. He is acknowledged as one of the most brilliant minds in foreign policy.

Nitin Gadkari retains his ministry of Road Transport and Highways and has also been allotted the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Ministry. Smriti Irani, who defeated Congress president Rahul Gandhi in the election in Amethi constituency, will be the new Minister for Women and Child Development while Prakash Javadekar will be new Information and Broadcasting Minister.

Ram Vilas Paswan of BJP ally Lok Janshakti Party will be Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution. Piyush Goyal has been given the charge of the ministries of Railways and Commerce while Ravi Shankar Prasad will continue to helm the Ministry of Law, Telecom as well as the IT Ministries. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will retain Department of Personnel and Training, Atomic Energy as well as all important policy issues and portfolios not allocated.
Modi was sworn in on Thursday as prime minister for a second term, helming a 58-member team of ministers, including him and BJP president Amit Shah who makes his debut in the Central government.

A new Ministry of Jal Shakti has been created and Gajendra Singh Shekhawat will be its minister. Modi was sworn in as PM for the second time at a glittering ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan on Thursday night, with 57 ministers. As many as 37 ministers have been dropped, including Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Uma Bharti, Jayant Sinha and Rajyavardhan Rathore.

Modi’s new council of ministers consisting of 24 of cabinet rank, nine junior ministers with independent charge and 24 junior ministers, is leaner than his previous one which had a total of 71 ministers. It has 24 new faces and 28 ministers were excluded. In constitution his new ministry, Modi dropped a number of senior party leaders like Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, both of whom have health issues, Suresh Prabhu, Maneka Gandhi, Uma Bharati and Radha Mohan Singh this time.

In a tweet last night after the swearing in, Modi described his team 2.0 as "a blend of youthful energy and administrative experience". While deciding on the composition of his new ministry, Modi kept in mind regional and caste representation. There are just two ministers of state--Babul Supriyo and debutant Deboshree Chaudhary who was the chief of BJP’s women’s wing in the state--from West Bengal where the BJP put up a stunning performance in recent national poll winning 18 of the total 42 seats as against Trinamool Congress’ 22.

Political analysts feel West Bengal did not find adequate representation in Modi’s new government particularly keeping in mind that the state goes for fresh assembly polls in 2021. Among the states, Uttar Pradesh, the most populous and electorally the most crucial state, got the maximum representation of eight ministers followed by Maharashtra with seven, Bihar with six, Jharkhand and Haryana with three each.

The BJP won 62 of the total of 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh, along with ally Shiv Sena most of the 48 seats in Maharashtra and all but one of the 40 in Bihar. Three southern states Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu did not find any ministerial berth as the BJP did not win a single parliamentary seat in those seats.

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