The top four slots in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Team 2.0 have new faces rejigging key portfolios, with Amit Shah, who crafted a Modi wave in the elections, getting charge of the Home Ministry and effectively becoming the number 2 in the cabinet.
With the BJP President’s appointment, the Modi-Shah team will be the twin engines propelling the government. It is familiar turf for the two as Shah was Modi’s Home Minister for long when Modi was the Chief Minister in Gujarat.
Rajnath Singh, the Home Minister in the Modi I government, has been moved across the road from North Block to South Block as the Defence Minister.
He will replace Nirmala Sitharaman who, in the biggest surprise, is the new Finance Minister replacing Arun Jaitley who was not included in the cabinet because of ill health.
Nirmala Sitharaman will be the first woman Finance Minister after Indira Gandhi, when she was the Prime Minister. Sitharaman had achieved a similar feat when she was made the Defence Minister in the previous Modi government.
There was no surprise, however, in the External Affairs Ministry as the inclusion of former Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar and the axing of Sushma Swaraj from the council of ministers left no doubt where he was headed.
The Prime Minister also fulfilled his campaign promise of setting up a Ministry of Jal Shakti to deal with all water, a scarce resource, related issues. Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, who won from Jodhpur, will be the first leader to head the Jal Shakti Ministry.
Among other significant changes, former Uttarakhand Chief Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank will be the Human Resource Development Ministry (HRD), replacing Prakash Javedkar who gets back environment, forest and climate change and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
Harsh Vardhan has been made the new Health Minister replacing J.P. Nadda, who was dropped amidst speculations that he could be made the new BJP President as the Himachal Pradesh leader is considered close to Modi.
Uttar Pradesh BJP chief Mahendra Nath Pandey gets skill development, a Ministry close to PM’s heart but has not taken off in the manner it was perceived to be.
But many ministers have retained their portfolios. Most notable among them is Ravi Shankar Prasad, who continues to be Law Minister and will also be Minister for Communication and Electronics and IT.
Piyush Goyal, who was also in the race to become Finance Minister, retains his railway’s portfolio and also gets Commerce and Industry.
Dharmendra Pradhan also retains the Petroleum Ministry. His other portfolio is steel.
Smriti Irani, who defeated Rahul Gandhi in Amethi, has been given women and child development, a Ministry held by Maneka Gandhi who was dropped from the council of ministers. Irani will also continue to hold the textile ministry.
Among the allies, Arvind Sawant of Shiv Sena gets heavy industries and Harsimrat Badal, the sole Akali Dal Minister, retains food processing industry.