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NIRMALA GETS DEFENCE

1st FULL TIME LADY DEFENCE MINISTER IN INDIA

Nirmala Sitharaman emerged as the biggest gainer of the cabinet reshuffle today as Prime Minister Modi gave her the heavyweight Defence portfolio, while Piyush Goyal replaced Suresh Prabhu in the Railway Ministry in a major rejig, which saw nine new faces being inducted. Sitharaman became the first woman Defence Minister of the country since Indira Gandhi held the charge. Sitharaman, who was holding the Commerce portfolio as a Minister of State, was elevated along with Goyal, Dharmendra Pradhan and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi to the cabinet rank. As the Defence Minister, Sitharaman will be a member of the crucial Cabinet Committee on Security whose members include the Prime Minister, Home Minister, External Affairs Minister and the Finance Minister. Prabhu was shifted to the commerce and industry ministry, while Pradhan and Naqvi retained their portfolios of Oil and Gas and Minority Affairs respectively. Goyal will continue to head the Coal Ministry along with Railways. Modi stripped cabinet minister Uma Bharti of the charges of water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation and handed them over to Nitin Gadkari. Bharti will take care of Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation. Pradhan was given the additional charge of Skill Development Ministry. The Prime Minister also reposed faith in the administrative capabilities of three former government officials by giving them independent charge of crucial portfolios. Former diplomat Hardeep Puri and former IAS officer Alphons Kannanthanam have been made MoS (Independent charge) of Housing and Urban Development and Tourism respectively. R K Singh, former Home Secretary, was given charge of Power and New and Renewable Energy portfolios. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore replaced Vijay Goel in the Sports MInistry. Goel, who earlier held independent charge, has been shunted as the Minister of State for Parliamentary Afairs and Statistics and Programme Implementation.

New faces in the Agri Ministry

The Narendra Modi government today inducted a technology-savvy farmer Gajendra Singh Shekhawat as a new junior agriculture minister and moved Krishna Raj to this important ministry, apparently aiming at strengthening the farm sector. Shekhawat and Raj will replace SS Ahluwalia and Sudharshan Bhagat, who have been moved as Ministers of State for Drinking Water and Sanitation and Tribal Affairs respectively in the major cabinet rejig. Krishna Raj was earlier the minister of state for Women and Child Development, while Shekhawat, an RSS activist in Rajasthan, was a Member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance. Parshottam Rupala, also a junior agriculture minister at present, will hold the additional charge as minister of state for Panchayati Raj. In total, three junior ministers will be working with cabinet-rank Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh to achieve the goal of doubling farm income and rolling out key farm schemes at the ground level. Shekhawat, Raj and Rupala are from Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat, respectively. Junior ministers are not only empowered on paper, but also delegated important ministerial work.

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