Union Cabinet on the basis of performance and image in the form of a minister Four ministers have been promoted in the recent reshuffle of
Nirmala Sitharaman - First Line of Defence
Nirmala Sitharaman, who was allotted the crucial Defence portfolio in a major rejig of the Modi government on August 3, is the first woman defence minister, full time, of the Independent India. Earlier, it was then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi who held the additional charge of Defence portfolio twice - from December 1 to December 21 in 1975, and January 14, 1980, to January 15, 1982. Born on August 18, 1959, in Madurai, Sitharaman hails from a middle-class family. Her father, Narayanan Sitharaman worked in the Railways while her mother, Savitri, was a homemaker and a great lover of books. She spent her childhood in different parts of Tamil Nadu as her father’s job led to many transfers.
In 2003, Sitharaman was made a member of the National Commission for Women (NCW) in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. She remained an NCW member till 2005. A year later, in 2006, Nirmala joined the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP). In 2010, Nirmala was made a BJP spokesperson.
On May 26, 2014, with BJP assuming charge at the Centre, Nirmala was made a Minister of State, Commerce and Industry, with independent charge. She also handled the ministry of finance and corporate affairs prior to the cabinet reshuffle.
In Nirmala’s words, she led a ‘secure’ childhood. Although she was born in Tiruchirapalli in Tamil Nadu, Sitharaman spent most of her younger days in different parts of the state due to her father’s transferable job. After completing Class 5, Nirmala and her sister were packed off to their periamma’s (Mom’s elder sister) place in Chennai. Three years were spent in ‘Madras’ before she moved to Trichy in Tamil Nadu, where she completed the rest of her schooling and secured a Bachelors degree in Economics from Seethalakshmi Ramaswami College. Consequently, being open to change and travel came naturally to the young Nirmala.
In 1980, the intelligent and determined Sitharaman joined Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). She pursued her PhD dissertation on Indo-European textile trade. Apparently, globalisation and its affect on developing economies was one of her favourite subjects.
While at JNU she met her husband Parakala Prabhakar. He hails from Andhra Pradesh, and after they were married, the couple moved to London. Better opportunities came calling and she joined Price Waterhouse as an Analyst to study how East European economies adapted to western audit and marketing systems. She found the job interesting. In no time, Nirmala climbed up the corporate ladder and then India beckoned, because they planned to have a baby in their own country.
Piyush Goyal - Powerhouse of Energy
If India became a power surplus country in last three years of NDA government at the Centre and there is no shortage of electricity or coal, it is because of untiring efforts of Piyush Goyal who has been promoted from the post of Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Energy and Coal to Cabinet Rank for Railways and Coal.
The highest ever 60GW addition in conventional power, about 40% increase in transformation capacity, and over one-fourth increase in transmission lines since April 2014-March 2017, have made India a power surplus country, with no shortage of electricity or coal. Not only this India also became a net exporter of electricity for the first time in 2016-17.
These feats have been achieved because of several new initiatives taken by Goyal like all states signed the “Power for All” agreements, highlighting Centre’s “commitment” to the principle of Cooperative Federalism. Through another programme -“One Nation, One Grid, One Price’ - surplus electricity was made available to States at affordable rates.
SHAKTI (Scheme for Harnessing and Allocating Koyala Transparently in India) became a “transformational policy” for auction and allotment of coal linkages. This will lead to affordable power, access to coal and accountability in the allocation of coal.
In the last three years, UDAY (Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana) scheme helped save around Rs 12,000 crores for DISCOMs due to the issuance of UDAY Bonds worth Rs 2.32 lakh crore. These savings will help in providing affordable power to consumers.
Similarly, under DDUGJY – Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana - the government has set the target of electrifying every household by 2022. Under UJALA (Unnat Jyoti by Affordable Electricity for All) scheme, India received world recognition for its energy efficiency initiatives as over 23 crore LED bulbs were distributed under UJALA across the country in three years. This helped in saving Rs 12,400 crore in electricity bills and reduced CO2 emissions by over 2.5 crore tonnes annually.
Goyal has been handed over the Railways at a time when the Minister has been undergoing a major upheaving because of a spate of accidents during past few months. His predecessor Suresh Prabhu, no doubt a highly efficient minister, managed to enhance passengers’ comfort but because of the high railway traffic and low budget, could not improve railway safety and infrastructure. Goyal has an onerous task of demonstrating marked improvement in the beleaguered ministry within next 18 months when the country goes to polls once again.
Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi - The Diligent Worker
Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi has been with BJP even before it was formed in 1980. He was a student leader during an Emergency and like many student leaders raising their voices in protest, was incarcerated in Naini Central Jail. He got associated with Janata Party after the emergency was lifted. Naqvi unsuccessfully contested elections for the legislative assembly of Uttar Pradesh in 1980 as a candidate of Janata Party (Secular). He also contested elections as an independent candidate in 1980 Lok Sabha elections from Ayodhya constituency. He later joined BJP and even mobilized support for Ram Janmabhoomi agitation during 1989-90. He was elected to the 1998 Lok Sabha from Lok Sabha and subsequently given the post of Minister of State for Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. But, he lost the next Parliamentary election from Rampur in 1999 and kept working for the party organization. He was elected to Rajya Sabha in 2010 from Uttar Pradesh and again in 2016 from Jharkhand.
He became Minister of State for Minority Affairs and Parliamentary Affairs on 26 May 2014 in Narendra Modi ministry. After the resignation of Najma Heptulla on 12 July 2016, he got independent charge of the Ministry of Minority Affairs. Because of his silent and assiduous style of working, he was promoted to the Cabinet rank with charge of Minority Affairs Ministry. Few people know that he was one the main cogs in the election machinery during 2014 polls which catapulted the BJP to power with full majority on its own. He was handling the election campaign from party headquarter in New Delhi. He kicked off many new schemes for minorities. These include Nai Roshni to provide leadership skills to women from the minority community, Nai Manzil – in which Rs 650 crore have been earmarked for 5 yrs to educate and train 1 lakh minority students, the Educational Empowerment Scheme under which more than Rs 85.40 lakh minority students received scholarships.
While the entire state was scoffing at pros and cons of the Supreme Court verdict on triple talaq, Naqvi was busy flagging off the first batch of Haj pilgrims in Mumbai. He hoped that this year, the government would be able to send 35,000 more people on Haj. Naqvi also said that the government was planning to reopen the sea route for Haj pilgrims making the travel much cheaper enabling even with economically unsound people to take up the pilgrimage.
He is so modest that when asked about the reason for his promotion, Naqvi responded quietly that he simply performed his task in right earnest. Asked what will be his priorities now that he is a full-fledged cabinet rank minister Naqvi replied, “Whatever responsibility has been handed over to me, I will try to carry it out with all my ability and earnestly.”
He studied Arts and Mass Communication. Naqvi married Seema (now Naqvi), a Hindu by birth on 8 June 1983 and has a son from the marriage.
Dharmendra Pradhan - Fuelling Clean Governance
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promoted petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan to cabinet rank giving him the additional charge of the skill development ministry.
Pradhan has been awarded for the success that PAHAL and Ujjwala schemes of the Petroleum Ministry have achieved. The two schemes played one of the most important roles in changing the lives of the poor, particularly in the rural areas.
The Direct Benefit Transfer of LPG (DBTL) or Pratyaksh Hanstantrit Labh (PAHAL) scheme has been a runaway success. It found an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the largest cash transfer programme in the world. The Centre had launched the PAHAL scheme in 54 districts of the country on November 15, 2014 and in remaining districts of the country on January 1, 2015.
The LPG consumers who joined the PAHAL scheme got LPG cylinders at market price and received LPG subsidy (as per their entitlement) directly into their bank accounts. It was acknowledged by the Guinness Book of World Records for being the largest cash transfer program (households) with 12.57 crore households receiving cash transfer as of June 30, 2015.
Similarly, Ujjwala scheme gave access to the poor and rural households to a smokeless stove, significantly changing the lives of the people, particularly the women. Ujjwala seems to have paid dividends to the Centre electorally. BJP registered the historic win in Uttar Pradesh largely due to the Ujjwala scheme. Dharmendra Pradhan, who is tipped to be Odisha BJP’s chief ministerial candidate during the 2019 Assembly elections, is clearly the man behind the success of the two success.
The Odisha-born Pradhan now has the twin task of delivering the state for the Bharatiya Janata Party and give a new push to the Skill India mission, an issue close to the heart of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Pradhan’s promotion as a cabinet minister is largely because of the successful implementation of the scheme to provide free LPG cylinders to BPL families --- another pet scheme of PM Modi. Before the rollout of the scheme, more than 10 million families returned subsidy on LPG cylinders, passing on the benefits to deserving families from poorer sections.
“I am humbled by the trust & confidence reposed on me by Hon’ble Prime Minister, Party President & senior leadership of the Party,” Pradhan, a Rajya Sabha member from Bihar, tweeted. “This is the beauty & strength of our democracy that an ordinary person like me has been given such huge responsibility.”
If Pradhan impressed the PM with his energy in the petroleum ministry, he also won praises from party chief Amit Shah for his active involvement in organisational matters. Pradhan was a key strategist for the BJP in Uttarakhand, a state the party won earlier this year.
The 48-year leader is married to Mridula Pradhan and has two children Naimisha and Nishant.
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