The Sunday Cabinet reshuffle - third of the PM Narendra Modi led NDA Government - is a blend of the performance appraisal, regional aspirations, and talent enhancement. But this is not without heartburns. But the message is clear, performance is the king. President Ram Nath Kovind administered oath to promote four ministers, Nirmala Sitharaman, Piyush Goyal, Dharmendra Pradhan and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, along with nine new ministers.
The BJP veteran Uma Bharati is sulking, since her pet Ganga rejuvenation and water resources is taken away from her. The surface transport, shipping and ports minister Nitin Gadkari got the additional charge of this ministry. Bharti, was leading the campaign to clean Ganges much before she was appointed the minister in charge, and was seen natural choice for the same. But the slow progress, and a larger goal of utilizing water resources as waterways brought Gadkari in. He will be assisted with new induct Bhagpat MP Satya Pal Singh. The Home Minister Rajnath Singh too asked to be relieved, but apparently stayed back after intervention from RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. Other than this, two new inducts are not even an MP, this is leaving several party leaders sulking.
But among positives, Modi appointed Olympic medalist, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore as new sports and youth affairs minister. All four elevated ministers have been best performers not only in the government but also actively participate in the party work. Pradhan is now given additional responsibility of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship. This ministry is crucial to PM Modi's grand plan, and his predecessor Rajiv Pratap Rudy's work was seen missing the mark. In fact, he was asked to give a presentation to the party chief Amit Shah, and thereafter he resigned. Pradhan has a task to streamline skill development programmes and enhance the confidence of India Inc in these programmes and the output.
But surprise of the day is Nirmala Sitharaman. She is country's first women Defence minister. She not only has talent to take forward the reforms in the Army, but would require her talent and resolve to push the domestic production and procurements. She along with Goyal - who is new Railways minister - need to speed up the reforms in the respective ministries. For both of them, this would be toughest. Goyal replaced Suresh Prabhu - who is now Commerce and Industries Minister - and he intiated reforms of changing the structure of railway's decision making, financial restructuring and spending in infrastructure. He was criticized for slow speed. But the challenge for Goyal would be how to push reforms in a structure of 13 lakh employees.
Among the nine new ministers, four are former bureaucrats - two former IAS officers RK Singh and Alphons Kannanthanam, ex-IFS Hardeep Singh Puri and ex-IPS Satya Pal Singh. Singh will take over from Goyal in Power and Renewable Energy ministries, with independent charge. Both these ministries are facing immense challenge. The country's demand for power is slowing down, which is leading to power plants running at lower capacity. The renewable energy too is in transition mode to make dipping and fluctuating prices a new normal. Singh, who was country's home secretary earlier, is considered to be a good administrator, but his talent of foreseeing the ever changing scenarios in renewable energy will be tested in this new position. It would be entirely new world for Puri. A former permanent representative of India at UN, Puri is new urban development minister. He has no such experience, and implementation of smart cities project would be at test. MP from UP Shiv Prasad Shukla will join Arun Jaitley led Finance Ministry, replacing Santosh Gangwar. Former health minister in Bihar, Ashwini Choubey is new MoS in health ministry at union.