Four of the nine new inductees in the cabinet are former bureaucrats and diplomats. Others too bring with them certain specialisations, reports SSB Bureau
Ashwini Kumar Choubey
Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare
The Cleanliness and Hygience Man
The newly appointed Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare, Ashwini Kumar Choubey is famous for coining and popularising the slogan “Ghar-ghar me ho shouchalaya ka nirman, tabhi hoga ladli bitiya ka kanyadaan”. He also helped in constructing 11,000 toilets for Mahadalit families in Bihar. This way he took forward the cleanliness mission even before it became a national movement under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s guidance.
Elected to the Bihar Legislative Assembly for five consecutive terms, Choubey held important portfolios such as Urban development, PHED and Health in Bihar during both NDA I (2005-2010) and NDA II (2010-2013).
Choubey represents Buxar in the Lok Sabha and was a member of the Parliamentary Committee on Estimates, Standing Committee on Energy and Consultative Committee on Health and Family Welfare. He is also a member of Central Silk Board.
Choubey, who was born on January 2, 1953, at Dariyapur in Bhagalpur, is a political and social worker and agriculturist. Starting his early politics as student union leader in Patna University, Choubey went on to become its President in 1978-79. He also took part in JP movement and was taken into custody under MISA during the emergency. Choubey was a full time member of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad from 1974 to 1987.
A Bachelors in Zoology from Science College, Patna University, Choubey has also authored a book - “Kedarnath Trasadi” based on the 2013 deluge in Uttarakhand. Choubey along with his family had escaped the Kedarnath floods. Choubey’s favourite pastime is practising yoga, listening to classical music and watching Kathak performances.
He has been a keen parliamentarian which is evident from parliamentary records too. He has 93 per cent attendance in the Parliament. He has participated in 180 debates and asked 151 questions besides moving two important private member bills including one demanding Cow be declared national animal of India. He had campaigned for speedy development of various pilgrim centres in Bihar. He also demanded the construction of a martyr’s memorial in Lakhimpur.
His concern for manual scavengers came to fore when he requested the government to ensure proper implementation of 2013 Manual Scavenging Act and also of 2014 Supreme Court judgment to prevent loss of lives while cleaning sewers and protect the dignity of Dalits.
He has been campaigning hard for the development of his constituency, Buxar in Bihar. He has raised demand for setting up of an International Airport at Buxar, as also a raise in wages being given to Aanganwadi workers’ and Asha workers’. He vociferously put forth a demand for setting up a Rashtriya Sanskritik Ved Shodh aur Adhyayan Kendra (National Research and Study Centre on Vedas and Cultural) at Buxar. He has frequently raised voice demanding proper toilet facilities to women cops. He also wanted that a life-size statue of Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay to be set up in Parliament’s compound.
He had called on then President of India, Pranab Mukherjee in April this year inviting him to visit Buxar before demitting office. He had also submitted a memorandum demanding that the President should organize celebrations in honour of well known freedom fighter Kunwar Veer Singh, inside President’s House.
Shiv Pratap Shukla
Minister of State for Finance
Quintessential Organisation Man
Fate has strange twists and turns in a person’s life. One year back, Shiv Pratap Shukla was interested in getting elected to the legislative council in UP. However, just before the upcoming by-polls to Legislative Council in which Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath along with his four other senior ministerial colleagues is seeking election, Shukla has been inducted as Minister of State for Finance in the Modi government.
Shukla had been a Minister for Prisons in the Kalyan Singh-led BJP government in Uttar Pradesh. Shukla, a law graduate from Deen Dayal Upadhyay Gorakhpur University, had begun his political career as a student leader in the 1970s. Prior to becoming a Rajya Sabha MP last year, Shukla was an MLA for four consecutive terms: 1989, 1991, 1993 and 1996. He is popularly known for his work in Rural Development, Education, and Prison reform during his tenure.
Shukla was appointed Vice President of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Uttar Pradesh in February 2012 under the presidency of Surya Pratap Shahi. He had initiated an Education for all scheme which tied together ten districts for the first time and for his efforts to reform conditions for prisoners and various Rural Development Schemes.
SP Shukla’s life as a politician started in the early 1970s when he was the student leader of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and elected as the Provincial Secretary of Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) in 1981. Shukla campaigned in the General Elections in 1989 and was elected a member of the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly.
Shukla, who was imprisoned for 19 months under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act during the Emergency, is also a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Rural Development.
Shukla rose to prominence only during Laxmikant Bajpai’s regime as state BJP chief. Has had 87 per cent attendance in Rajya Sabha, asked 21 questions (all unstarred) and participated in six debates – including the one on Aadhar. He is known to be a low-profile leader.
Born in Khajni village in Gorakhpur district on April 1, 1952, Shiv Pratap took a law degree from Gorakhpur University. His family consists of wife and three daughters. He joined Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad in 1970 and was imprisoned several times during the course of the students’ agitation that was sweeping the country at that time.
Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Tourism; Minister of State (Indepenent Charge) for Electronics and Information Technology
The Demolition Man
In 1979, having given his Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) exams, a 26-year-old man from Kerala couldn’t be bothered to look for his name in the list of successful candidates in the newspapers. Instead, he tucked the paper under his pillow and went back to sleep.
“I call it confidence, some would say arrogance; to each his own. I was confident that my name would be there, somewhere in the first paragraph of the results, which usually has the toppers,” he later wrote in his best selling autobiography in Malayalam ‘India Mattathinte Muzhakkam’. His second book, Making a Difference too is a bestseller.
On August 3, Alphons Kannanthanam — he stood eighth in the UPSC exam — was inducted into the cabinet as its first Malayali minister. The former bureaucrat has been made MoS (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Tourism and MoS in the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.
Kannanthanam earned a reputation for being an earnest civil servant after making Kottayam the first fully literate town in the country as part of the literacy campaign launched by the communist government in 1989.
He later hogged headlines as an unrelenting officer in Delhi, going after illegal constructions, that earned him the moniker ‘demolition man’. He also figured in Time magazine’s 1994 list of “100 young global leaders” -- Mukesh Ambani who was the only other Indian on it.
Kannanthanam quit the civil service in 2006 and joined politics, served as an independent Kottayam legislator backed by the communists. In a massive change, he moved to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) during 2014 Lok Sabha polls and was made a member of its national executive council soon after joining. However, he was never appointed to a top post.
The BJP has been long been desperate to make a dent in Kerala’s traditional two-party politics dominated by the Congress and Communist Party of India (Marxist). Last year it won its first assembly seat. BJP president Amit Shah gave a clear message to the state unit in June that it is simply impossible to win more seats in Kerala without the support of at least one of the minorities—Christians and Muslims —who together make up half of the state’s population. “No doubt at all, the Christian community will be willing to respond (to Kannanthanam’s elevation). That kind of statement is already coming from senior Bishops,” said BRP Bhaskar, a political commentator and veteran journalist.
Although a relative outsider, Kannanthanam is a practising Syrian Catholic, a good orator, has a track record of bureaucratic efficiency, a political mind, and now has the blessings of Shah and Modi. “He always had a political mind. When he was a bureaucrat he launched a non profit (Janshakti). He had a knack to negotiate his candidacy with the communists. His personal ambition was to grow nationally so he joined the BJP, although he has been very critical of BJP’s Hindutva politics in the past,” said Bhaskar.
Mediapersons could not immediately get a comment from Kannanthanam for this story. But when asked if would be the face of BJP in Kerala in an interview with India Today after the swearing in on Sunday, he said, “Kerala has to be part of the PM’s agenda, otherwise Kerala is going to miss out.”
Tipped to be the administrator of Chandigarh last year, the former MLA from Kanjirappally seat was earlier backed by CPI(M). Kannanthanam shot into the limelight during his stint as commissioner of the Delhi Development Authority in the 1990s for his encroachment-clearing drive, and earned the sobriquet Delhi’s ‘demolition man’. He also featured in Time magazine’s list of 100 Young Global Leaders.
Born in a non-electrified village of Kottayam district of Kerala, Alphons made a name for himself as an IAS officer by first making Kottayam the first 100% literate town in 1989 when he was serving as the district collector there. He also earned the moniker Delhi’s Demolition Man after demolished 15,000 illegal buildings on government land while he was the Commissioner of the Delhi Development Authority.
Satya Pal Singh Minister of State for Human Resource Development; Minister of State for Water Resources,River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation
The Super Cop
A former Mumbai Police Commissioner, Satyapal Singh was the 1980 batch Maharashtra cadre IPS officer who is credited with breaking the backbone of organised crime syndicates in Mumbai in the 1990s. Singh was a highly-regarded Maharashtra cadre IPS officer of the 1980 batch, and has held several important posts in the state police department, including as Additional Director General of Police.
Singh was Pune Police Commissioner in 2010 when the German Bakery blast took place, rattling a city which once used to be a sleepy retirement town. It was during this stint that Singh refused clearance to renew the passport of Maharashtra home minister Ramesh Bagwe, who had criminal cases pending against him.
He was shunted to the establishment wing of Maharashtra Police for refusing to buckle under political pressure. In 2012, Singh was appointed the Police Commissioner of Mumbai after Arup Patnaik was shunted out for his failure in handling the rioting at Mumbai’s Azad Maidan that August.
Upright, honest to a fault and not one to mince his words, Singh has been an exemplary police officer for the entire length of his career; so it was a surprise when he decided to put in his papers while still serving as Mumbai police commissioner in 2014. After his resignation was accepted, he joined the BJP.
He represents Baghpat in Uttar Pradesh in Lok Sabha. Singh has been appointed as Minister of State in the Ministry of Human Resource Development and Minister of State in the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation.
A scholar of Vedic studies and Sanskrit, Satya Pal Singh is a Lok Sabha MP from Baghpat, UP. He was born in Basauli village of Baghpat and has an illustrious career in academia.
Singh has an MSc and MPhil in Chemistry, MBA in Strategic Management from Australia, MA in Public Administration as well as a PhD in Naxalism.
An IPS officer of the 1980 batch of the Maharashtra cadre, Singh has been recognised with medals like the Antrik Suraksha Sewa Padak and a Special Service Medal for extraordinary work in the Naxalite areas of Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh in 1990 by the government.
Singh is known for breaking the backbone of organised crime syndicates in Mumbai in the 1990s as the financial capital’s commissioner of police. He also served as the commissioner of Pune and Nagpur police.
He has also written best-selling books, including on topics like tribal conflict resolution and Naxalism.
Hardeep Singh Puri Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Housing and Urban Development
A Career Diplomat
Hardeep Singh Puri was a 1974-batch Indian Foreign Service officer. 65-years old Puri is considered to have been close to LK Advani during NDA-I. Puri is considered as one of the top diplomats of India and has served as India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 2009 to 2013 and was the vice president of the International Peace Institute, New York.
Currently, he holds the post of president and chairman of think-tank Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS). He is also the head of Indian delegation to the UNSC, and served as the chairman of the Counter-Terrorism Committee of the UN and president of the UNSC.
Born in Delhi, India 15 February 1952, educated from University of Delhi, BA (Hons) History in 1971, MA(History) in 1973. He was elected Prime Minister, of Students Parliament of Hindu College and was a keen debater.
A decorated former IFS officer of the 1974 batch, Hardeep Puri, has a four decade long distinguished career in diplomacy, foreign policy and national security. Puri served as Secretary (Economic Relations), Joint Secretary (Europe West) and Joint Secretary (Americas) in the External Affairs Ministry. He has wide experience in international trade law and dispute resolution.
He served critical roles as India’s ambassador to Brazil and the United Kingdom, and Permanent Representative of India in both Geneva (2002-05) and New York (2009-13). An alumnus of Hindu College, Delhi University, Singh briefly took teaching as a lecturer at St. Stephen’s college, Delhi, before joining IFS. During the JP movement, he actively participated as a student leader.
Extensive experience in multilateral diplomacy, served on three occasions as a member of India’s Delegation to the GATT/United Nations in Geneva including as Ambassador and Permanent Representative from 2002 to 2005. Long association with and specialization in trade-related matters and served on several Dispute Settlement Panels of the GATT and WTO. Puri retired from the IFS in February 2013 and joined the International Peace Institute (IPI), New York, a non-profit think tank. He also was Vice President of the International Peace Institute, New York. In 1987, as a first secretary in the Indian High Commission in Colombo, Puri went to Jaffna and met LTTE chief V. Prabhakaran and persuaded him to come to New Delhi to understand a peace pact India and Sri Lanka were set to sign to end the ethnic strife.
Puri, 65, joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. He was Ambassador to Brazil and Permanent Representative of India to the UN. He is one of the few Indians to have presided over the UN Security Council.
He has authored a book, Perilous Interventions: The Security Council & The Politics of Chaos, and has been a commentator on contemporary global issues and developments including strategic, peace and security, economic and trade. The Delhi-born diplomat was a student leader during his days at the Hindu College and was active during the JP movement. Puri, as the head of the Indian delegation to the UN Security Council has served as the Chairman of the Counter Terrorism Committee of the UN. He was also appointed the President of the UNSC in August 2011.
Raj Kumar Singh Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Power; Minister of State (Independent Charge) for New & Renewable Energy
Internal Security Expert
Seldom in his life has Raj Kumar Singh been a backbencher - be it while studying English at St Stephen’s College in the early 1970s or during his 38-year stint in various capacities as an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer in Bihar and New Delhi. But Singh, who retired as the Union home secretary in 2013 and months later joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has remained consigned to the back benches of the Lok Sabha in his first year as a Member of Parliament (MP).
An MP from Arrah, he has a whopping 99 per cent attendance in the Lok Sabha in the past year but has participated in only four debates against the House average of nearly 18 per MP. According to data culled by PRS Legislative Research, Singh has asked 13 questions in the Lok Sabha in its proceedings up to the last Budget session, while the average is 69.
His contribution to parliamentary proceedings, or the lack of it, is in some contrast to his illustrious career. Singh has been known to be a man of personal integrity and sought after by politicians of all hues for administrative skills. In 1984, he was the Patna district magistrate who put a stop to anti-Sikh riots that broke out after the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, within 48 hours in that city.
Six years hence, Singh was the man whom then Chief Minister of Bihar Lalu Prasad Yadav entrusted with arresting BJP leader L K Advani, then on his Somnath to Ayodhya Rath Yatra, in Samastipur. Singh carried out the orders on October 30, 1990. A few days later, and as direct result of the arrest, the VP Singh-led National Front government fell.
But 62-year-old Singh’s transition from an effective administrator to a politician is proving tougher than expected. The IAS officer of the 1975 batch has, rather wisely, also been quiet in his public statements ever since joining politics.
In the past, Singh is known to have had good relations with political leaders he might have acted against, including Advani. While he did arrest Advani in 1990, Singh served as a joint secretary in the home ministry from 2000 to 2005 with Advani as the minister.
He is also known to have a knack for picking the right side, including in 2013 when Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar wanted him to join the state government as advisor (infrastructure) after he retired from the IAS. As the principal secretary, road construction, in Bihar from 2006 to 2009, Singh had vastly improved the state’s road network. There was even talk of him getting a Janata Dal (United) ticket to contest the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
But Singh joined the BJP, got a Lok Sabha ticket and won from Arrah by over 135,000 votes. This trait of choosing the right side was evident when Singh was selected for the Indian Police Service in 1974 but attempted the civil services again, to be selected for the IAS’ 1975 batch. Singh, it would seem with his comments on Tuesday, has yet again picked the right side.
Virendra Kumar Minister of State for Women and Child Development; MOS, Minority Affairs
The Cow Protector
Associated with the RSS from childhood, Virendra Kumar is a six-time Lok Sabha member from Tikamgarh in Madhya Pradesh and the BJP’s Dalit face. The 63-year-old is passionate about the cause of cow protection and is closely associated with the successful management and functioning of the Gau Seva Sangh Sanstha in Sagar town of Madhya Pradesh.
Kumar is known for his simplicity and is often seen taking a lift from anyone in the town to reach his destination. “Even when he comes from Delhi, he just gets down at the station like any common man and take an auto-rickshaw to reach his home,” his close associate said.
He still roams around in his constituency on a scooter and stays away from all kinds of security paraphernalia usually associated with the post. Born on February 27, 1954, Kumar became MP for the first time in 1996 in the 11th Lok Sabha from Sagar. Since then he has never looked back and won from Sagar till 2004. After delimitation he won the lower house elections from Tikamgarh seat in 2009 and 2014. Among the six elections that he had won, three were held in a gap of just three years --1996, 1998 and 1999.
An M.A in Economics and Ph.D in Child Labour from the prestigious Dr. Hari Singh Gour University, Sagar, Kumar started his career as an RSS worker. Kumar belongs to the cadre of leaders who participated in the JP Movement of 1975. He was sentenced for 16 months under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) in Sagar and Jabalpur jails.
An SC leader, he claims to have engaged youth in fighting caste and class barriers, apart from working towards building orphanages and schools for the differently-abled and old-age homes.
Formerly the convenor of the ABVP, District Sagar in 1977-79, he was appointed Minister of State in the Ministry of Women and Child Development as well as MoS of Minority Affairs. Kumar joined politics in 1982 and since then he was closely associated with national, state, local movements and programme initiated by the BJP. Before becoming an MP, Kumar held various positions in ABVP and Bajrang Dal
Apart from these areas he has been involved in building orphanages, schools for the differently abled and old age homes.
Currently, Virendra Kumar is the chairperson of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour and has been the Chairman of the Joint Committee on Office of Profit and a Member of National Social Security Board.
Anant Kumar Hegde Minister of State for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship
An agriculturist by profession, Anant Kumar Hegde is a five-time BJP Lok Sabha MP from Uttara Kannada in Karnataka. At the young age of 28, he was elected to the Lok Sabha for the first time — he defeated sitting Congress MP Margaret Alva — and has never lost an election since. He was appointed Minister of State for Skill Development. He has served as a member of the parliamentary standing committees on finance, home affairs, human resource development, commerce, agriculture and external affairs. He has also been a member of the Spices Board of India for four terms.
Hegde, who was an RSS member from his young days and later an ABVP activist, rose through the ranks in the aftermath of Babri Masjid demolition. The young Hindutva face is expected to play a vital role when the Karnataka state Assembly goes to the polls next year.
Practitioner of Tae-kwon-do, a Korean martial art, Anant Kumar Hegde was elected as an MP at a young age of 28 years and since then he is now a fifth term Lok Sabha MP. He has been a member of multiple Parliamentary Standing Committees including the likes of Finance, Home Affairs, Human Resource Development, Commerce, Agriculture and External Affairs during his multiple stints in the Parliament.
Hegde has been working in the area of rural development for a long while. He is the founder president of an NGO named Kadamba that works for rural health, self help groups, rural marketing and other rural welfare programmes. Hegde has been a member of the Spices Board of India for four terms between 1996 and 2009.
In 1994, he caught the attention of RSS by dodging prohibitory orders in Hubli, north Karnataka and raised the Tricolour flag at disputed Idgah Maidan on Independence Day.
Despite being a young MP he participated in only one debate during past three years but posed 245 questions pertaining to various ministries during this period. His attendance in Parliament was nearly hundred per cent. But he did not move even a single private member’s bill in the House.
Currently the Karnataka BJP Vice President, he is also the founder president of Kadamba, a national-level NGO working in the field of rural development, rural health, formation of self help groups, rural marketing among others.
Born to Dattatreya Hegde and Lalita Hegde in Sirsi of Uttara Kannada district on 20th May, 1968, he had a firm basic foundation of rich heritage and tradition, quiet at a young age. His parents instilled in him initial insight of his existence amongst them, while imparting their proud ancestral inheritance. The importance of co-living in harmony with environment and cultivating the natural love towards Sanskrit & Kannada lingual were some of the salient features which defined Anant’s personality.
His wife, Shrirupa Hegde, has been too intense in supporting his societal endeavours and has been caring mother to his daughter Vrushali Hegde and son Ashutosh Hegde. Anant feels that his children have been the biggest source of his aspiration, as he visualises the future society through them.
Gajendra Singh Shekhawat Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare
The Progressive Farmer
Gajendra Shekhawat is a BJP leader from Jodhpur, which is former Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s home turf. He has been sworn in as the Minister of State for Agriculture. His promotion is part of the BJP’s plans for the upcoming elections in Rajasthan, which has been under-represented in the Union Cabinet. Shekhawat has made his way by climbing ranks in the party since he began his political career in 1992 when he was elected Jodhpur’s Jai Narain Vyas University students’ union president as an ABVP candidate.
He recently drew Modi’s attention during a BJP parliamentary party meeting where he gave a power-point presentation on the implementation of government schemes.
Shekhawat is also the general secretary of RSS-promoted Seema Jan Kalyan Samiti, whose objective is to create a “civil line of secondary defence along the international border, covering four major districts of Rajasthan and about 17 tehsils”.
Gajju, as he is popularly known, is a recognised face on social media, where he engages with people on the Q & A community — Quora with more than 55000 followers. He regularly answers a range of questions, embedding in the answers the Modi government’s flagship initiatives and the Prime Minister’s image of a simple, hardworking man. Shekhawat is a basketball player and has played the sport at the national and inter-university level.
Shekhawat is also the general secretary of RSS-promoted Seema Jan Kalyan Samiti, whose objective is to create a “civil line of secondary defence along the international border, covering four major districts of Rajasthan and about 17 tehsils”.
He is currently a Member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance and Chairperson of the Fellowship Committee. He is also popular among the youth owing to his likes for technology and gadgets. The National General Secretary of BJP’s farmer’s wing BJP Kisan Morcha, Shekhawat is popular with the rural community.
Shekhawat completed his higher education from Jai Narain Vyas University in Jodhpur, obtaining a MPhil and MA in philosophy. During his days in JNVU, he was involved in student politics under the banner of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad.
Currently, a member of All India Council of Sports, his involvement in sports is also known to many. He has participated in the National and All India Inter University level in Basketball and right now is the President of Basketball India Players Association.
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