Will Shah walk the talk on Article 370?

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Will Shah walk the talk on Article 370?

Saturday, 01 June 2019 | Deepak K Upreti | New Delhi

Will Shah walk the talk on Article 370?

BJP strongman Amit Shah, who had promised that his Government would scrap Article 370, is new Union Home Minister in place of Rajnath Singh. Rajnath has been moved to Defence while Nirmala Sitharaman has been entrusted with an equally high-profile Ministry of Finance and Corporate Affairs.

Replacing Sushma Swaraj, who held the portfolio of Foreign Minister in Modi-1 but opted not to contest Lok Sabha polls, is former Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar. The critical Ministry has been given to Jaishankar, trusted by Modi since latter’s days as Chief Minister in Gujarat.

Jaishankar, son of noted strategic expert and a former head of Institute of Defence Studies K Subrahmanyam, is the first former foreign secretary to take charge of MEA. He is also the second diplomat after Natwar Singh to hold Cabinet portfolio.

The command of home portfolio going to Shah is significant given his poll-time assertion in West Bengal last month that his Government would remove controversial provision of Article 370 in Jammu & Kashmir. “We will remove Article 370 from Kashmir after forming the next BJP Government at the Centre,” he had said at Kailimpong public rally at Darjeeling. Besides this, he has also maintained that his Government would introduce National Register for Citizens across the country if voted to power again at the Centre.

One of the closest confidant of the Prime Minister, Shah has held MoS home portfolio under Modi’s Chief Ministership in Gujarat. Presently an MP from Gandhi Nagar, Shah was in the past elected as an MLA in 1997, 1998, 2002 and 2007.

As Home Minister, the former BJP president is expected to have a high-level of synergy with the Prime Minister who was effusive in his praise of Shah soon after party’s stupendous Lok Sabha success on May 23 when BJP went past 300 and NDA 350 seats.

Sitharaman has stepped into the shoes of Arun Jaitley, who opted out of new Government on health grounds. Known as close to Jaitley, Sitharaman had a steep rise in her profile from being spokesperson to holding ministries of Corporate Affairs, Commerce and Industry to becoming first full-fledged Indian woman Defence Minister. She will have a deputy in Anurag Thakur, a first time Minister in the Modi Government. Anurag is close to Jaitley.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will retain the Department of Personnel and Training, Atomic Energy and Space as well as all important policy issues and portfolios not allocated.

Giant slayer Smriti Irani, who ended Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s run in his pocket borough of Amethi, is the new Women and Child Development (WCD) Minister along with retaining the Textile Ministry, according to a communiqué issued by the Rashtrapati Bhavan. WCD was earlier held by Maneka Gandhi who has not been included in the Cabinet.

Nitin Gadkari, considered one of the best performers during the first term of Modi Government for his expeditious project implementation, will continue to be the Minister for Road Transport and Highways and has also been given charge of the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises. Post-Assembly poll reverses of the BJP in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chattisgarh, Gadkari made some controversial comments against the Central leadership which was seen as ‘power struggle’ within the party by some political observers with the heavyweight Minister questioning decision making by the top leadership.

Piyush Goyal, who presented the interim budget earlier this year and was expected to take over from Jaitley, has been given the Commerce and Industry Ministry in addition to his old charge of Railways.

However, the Coal Ministry has been taken away from him and given to Pralhad Joshi, a new entrant in the Modi Government from Karnataka.

Joshi, close to RSS, will also be the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Mines.

Ravi Shankar Prasad will continue as Minister of Law and Information Technology. He also gets Telecom, a portfolio he commanded in the first half of Modi 1.0 Government.

A new Ministry of Jal Shakti has been created and Gajendra Singh Shekhawat (Rajasthan) will be its Minister.

Ujjwala-man Dharmendra Pradhan retains his Petroleum portfolio and has also been given charge of the Steel Ministry.

Former Uttarakhand Chief Minister Dr Ramesh Pokhariyal ‘Nishank’ is the new Human Resource Development Minister while Bihar ally and Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan remains Consumer Affairs Minister. Pokhariyal has old connect with Modi when the latter worked as ‘prabhari’ of the State. Pokhariyal also dabbles in poetry and has a number of books to his credit.

The Agriculture Ministry has been allocated to Narendra Singh Tomar who also gets the Rural Development and Panchayati Raj portfolio.

Prakash Javadekar has been given the ministries of Information & Broadcasting as well as Environment and Forest which is important in terms of giving permissions and clearances to key Government projects. In past he was criticised by Maneka Gandhi for certain policies allegedly having negative impact on animals and wildlife.

DV Sadananda Gowda will be the Minister of Chemicals and Fertilisers and Narendra Singh Tomar will be the new Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Akali Dal leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal continues to be the Minister of Food Processing Industries, Thawar Chand Gehlot will be new Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment.

Former diplomat Hardeep Puri will be new Minister of State with Independent charge of Civil Aviation while former IAS bureaucrat RK Singh will retain the ministries of Power and Renewable Energy in the same capacity. Puri like Jaitley had lost his Lok Sabha election from Amritsar but still back in the Council of Ministers.

Eight-term BJP MP from Uttar Pradesh Santosh Kumar Gangwar will be MoS with Independent charge for Labour and Employment.

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