Four retired ‘Babus’ join ministry, Piyush Goel gets Railways

The cabinet reshuffle on Sunday sprang few surprises barring Piyush Goel being appointed as Railway Minister in place of Suresh Prabhu

PTI Photo by Kamal Kishore
PTI Photo by Kamal Kishore

NH Web Desk

Commenting on the exercise someone said getting new tyres is fine but how does it help when the problem is with the engine?

Is the cabinet reshuffle yet another exercise to manage public perception? The question assumed significance after the Government kept the media and political circles agog with speculation over an exercise which does not seem to have yielded much.

While four retired Babus, two from the IAS, one from the Indian Foreign Service and one from the Indian Police Service, joined the Union council of ministers on Sunday, they have all been inducted as Ministers of State. They take the place of four Ministers of State who were elevated to cabinet rank. They are Dharmendra Pradhan, Piyush Goel, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Nirmala Sitharaman.

The new Ministers of State sworn in by President Ram Nath Kovind at a ceremony in the Rashtrapati Bhavan include Virendra Kumar, Anant Kumar Hegde and Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, former IAS officers Alphons Kannanthanam and R K Singh, former diplomat Hardeep Puri and ex-Mumbai police chief Satyapal Singh.

Two other new faces are Ashwini Kumar Choubey, a member of the Lok Sabha from Bihar, and Shiv Pratap Shukla from Uttar Pradesh.

All the new ministers are from the BJP as its allies were not part of the exercise.

Six ministers of the Union Cabinet had put in their papers, days ahead of the reshuffle.

A highlight of the third reshuffle of the Modi cabinet in as many years was the induction of people with proven administrative ability like Puri, R K Singh, Satyapal Singh and Kannanthanam, underlining the Prime Minister's efforts to give a fresh impetus to governance.

Former Union Home Secretary RK Singh was a trenchant critic of the BJP's Bihar leadership for its corrupt ways. When he was Home Secretary he was a trenchant critic of the RSS and the man responsible for locking up Major Purohit and Pragya Thakur. His selection is a signal to Sushil Modi.

Kannanthanam and Puri are currently not members of Parliament and are likely to be elected to the Rajya Sabha within the stipulated six months.

The promotion of Naqvi, Pradhan, Sitharaman and Goyal, who were all Ministers of State with independent charge, is an endorsement of their good performance, official sources said.

As Minister of State for Power, Goyal had initiated a number of reform initiatives to improve health of power distribution companies in states.

Sitharaman's elevation is also seen as a reward to her performance as Minister of State for Commerce.

With his promotion, Naqvi, who is holding charge of Minority and Parliamentary Affairs, will be the lone Muslim face in the cabinet.

Pradhan as the Oil MInister is also credited with successfully implementing government's policy in the crucial sector including the iniative to forego subsidised cooking gas voluntarily.

The focus of the reshuffle has been who will be given the the defence and railways portfolios. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has been holding additional charge of defence since Manohar Parrikar was sent to Goa as the Chief Minister in March.

Incumbent Suresh Prabhu today indicated his exit from Railway Ministry, saying he will cherish memories with "rail family". He had offered to resign on August 23, taking "moral responsibility" for two recent train accidents.

Three of the BJP MPs being inducted -- Kumar, Hegde and Shekhawat -- are from Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Rajasthan respectively, where Assembly polls are due next year.

While Virendra Kumar represents the Tikamgarh constituency of Madhya Pradesh in the Lok Sabha, Hegde is a five-time Lok Sabha MP from Uttara Kannada in Karnataka. Shekhawat represents Jodhpur seat in the Lower House. Former Home Secretary R K Singh is a first time MP from Arrah in Bihar.

While Shukla is a Rajya Sabha MP from Uttar Pradesh, Choubey has been elected to the Lok Sabha from Buxar in Bihar. Satya Pal Singh is a Lok Sabha MP from Baghpat in Uttar Pradesh and a former Maharashtra-cadre IPS officer of the 1980 batch.

Kannanthanam Alphons was known as the 'Demolition Man' for having ordered razing of thousands of illegal constructions when he was heading the Delhi Development Authority. Hardeep Singh Puri (65) is a 1974-batch of the Indian Foreign Service and has served as India's Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 2009 to 2013.

Known for his experience and expertise in foreign policy and national security, he is the president and chairman of think-tank Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS) and was the vice president of the International Peace Institute, New York.

The selection of nine new names for ministership has been done by Modi keeping in view the '4 Ps' -- passion, proficiency, professional and political acumen, to deliver on his vision of a new India, official sources said.

(With agencies inputs)

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Published: 3 Sep 2017, 12:54 PM