Modi 3.0 signals continuity; BJP keeps the top5 portfolios; Shivraj Chouhan debuts as Agri Minister

Despite a coalition government, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday maintained continuity in his Cabinet with all the top berths — Home, Defence, External Affairs, Finance and Surface Transport — going to the same ministers. Among the allies, only the TDP has been awarded key ministries while the JD(U), the JD(S), the Lok Janshakti Party, the Hindustani Awam Morcha, and others had to be satisfied with lesser portfolios.

Significantly, Modi chaired his first Cabinet meeting even before the portfolios were announced. Also, the list of portfolios was released almost 24 hours after the swearing-in. The 15-party NDA has 293 MPs with the BJP as its single largest constituent with 240 MPs, followed by the TDP (16), the JD-U (12), the LJP – Ram Vilas (five).

Among the top five in the Cabinet, Rajnath Singh will continue as the Defence Minister as would Amit Shah at Home (along with Cooperation Ministry). Nitin Gadkari retained the Surface Transport Ministry and Nirmala Sitharaman will continue to head the Finance Ministry (along with Corporate Affairs). S Jaisahankar retained the External Affairs portfolio. There is, consequently, no change in the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), which comprises Home, Defence, Finance and External Affairs Ministers, with the Prime Minister as the ex-officio Chairman.

BJP President and Cabinet Minister JP Nadda will hold two Ministries — Health, and Chemicals and Fertilisers. Three former Chief Ministers, now in the Union Cabinet are: Shivraj Singh Chouhan, credited with turning Madhya Pradesh into a golden State for farm growth will head Agriculture and Rural Development Ministries; Manohar Lal Khattar gets Housing and Urban Affairs, and Power; and HD Kumaraswamy Heavy Industries, and Steel.

Most other ministers have been repeated without much change in portfolios. Piyush Goyal will continue in Commerce and Industry, Sarbananda Sonowal in Ports, Shipping & Waterways, and Ashwini Vaishnaw in Railway, Electronics and Information Technology as well as Information and Broadcasting, Virendra Kumar in Social Justice & Empowerment, Hardeep Puri in Petroleum, and Bhupendra Yadav in Environment. Vaishnaw hands over Communication Ministry to Jyotiraditya Scindia, while Dharmendra Pradhan heads to Human Resource Development.

Among the allies, TDP’s Kinjarapu Rammohan Naidu got the key Civil Aviation portfolio. Chirag Paswan from LJP (Ram Vilas) was assigned the Food Processing Ministry. Another ex-chief minister and HAM leader Jitan Ram Manjhi will handle Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Ministry. Another key ally JD(U)‘s Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lalan Singh failed to get any significant portfolio, and was allotted Panchayati Raj and Fisheries, Animal Husbandry & Dairying Ministry.

Delay in list

There was lot of speculation about differences among allies over the allocation of berths delaying the announcement of portfolios. The buzz was that Shiv Sena (Shinde), which has got one Minister of State slot, was not happy with the allocation. The NCP (Ajit) does not have a single representative in the Union Cabinet.

Discussions over the post of the Lok Sabha Speaker were also on with the TDP pushing the case of N Chandrabu Naidu’s sister-in-law and BJP leader D Purandeswari for the post.

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