New Delhi: Four junior ministers were today elevated to the cabinet rank and nine new faces, including four former government officers, inducted as Ministers of State, in a rejig by Prime Minister Narendra Modi with a focus on his agenda on good governance.
Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Dharmendra Pradhan, Nirmala Sitharaman and Piyush Goyal, who were all holding independent charge as state ministers, were promoted to the cabinet rank, which is being seen as an acknowledgement of their performance. The new Ministers of State sworn in by President Ram Nath Kovind at a ceremony in the Rashtrapati Bhavan include Virendra Kumar, Anant Kumar Hegde and Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, former IAS officers Alphons Kannanthanam and R K Singh, former diplomat Hardeep Puri and ex-Mumbai police chief Satyapal Singh.
Two other new faces are Ashwini Kumar Choubey, a member of the Lok Sabha from Bihar, and Shiv Pratap Shukla from Uttar Pradesh. All the new ministers are from the BJP as its allies were not part of the exercise. Six ministers of the Union Cabinet had put in their papers, days ahead of the reshuffle. A highlight of the third reshuffle of the Modi cabinet in as many years was the induction of people with proven administrative ability like Puri, R K Singh, Satyapal Singh and Kannanthanam, underlining the Prime Minister’s efforts to give a fresh impetus to governance.
Kannanthanam and Puri are currently not members of Parliament and are likely to be elected to the Rajya Sabha within the stipulated six months. The promotion of Naqvi, Pradhan, Sitharaman and Goyal, who were all Ministers of State with independent charge, is an endorsement of their good performance, official sources said.
As Minister of State for Power, Goyal had initiated a number of reform initiatives to improve health of power distribution companies in states. Sitharaman’s elavation is also seen as a reward to her performance as Minister of State for Commerce. With his promotion, Naqvi, who is holding charge of Minority and Parliamentary Affairs, will be the lone Muslim face in the cabinet.
Pradhan as the Oil MInister is also credited with successfully implementing government’s policy in the crucial sector including the iniative to forego subsidised cooking gas voluntarily. The focus of the reshuffle has been who will be given the the defence and railways portfolios. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has been holding additional charge of defence since Manohar Parrikar was sent to Goa as the Chief Minister in March.
Incumbent Suresh Prabhu today indicated his exit from Railway Ministry, saying he will cherish memories with “rail family”. He had offered to resign on August 23, taking “moral responsibility” for two recent train accidents.
Three of the BJP MPs being inducted — Kumar, Hegde and Shekhawat — are from Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Rajasthan respectively where Assembly polls are due next year. While Virendra Kumar represents the Tikamgarh constituency of Madhya Pradesh in the Lok Sabha, Hegde is a five-time Lok Sabha MP from Uttara Kannada in Karnataka.
Shekhawat represents Jodhpur seat in the Lower House.Former Home Secretary R K Singh is a first time MP from Arrah in Bihar. While Shukla is a Rajya Sabha MP from Uttar Pradesh, Choubey has been elected to the Lok Sabha from Buxar in Bihar. Satya Pal Singh is a Lok Sabha MP from Baghpat in Uttar Pradesh and a former Maharashtra-cadre IPS officer of the 1980 batch.
Kannanthanam was known as the ‘Demolition Man’ for having ordered razing of thousands of illegal constructions when he was heading the Delhi Development Authority. Hardeep Singh Puri, 65, is a 1974-batch of the Indian Foreign Service and has served as India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 2009 to 2013.
Known for his experience and expertise in foreign policy and national security, he is the president and chairman of think-tank Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS) and was the vice president of the International Peace Institute, New York. The selection of nine new names for ministership has been done by Modi keeping in view the ‘4 Ps’ — passion, proficiency, professional and political acumen, to deliver on his vision of a new India, official sources said.