Ns News Online Desk: A day after beginning his second stint as prime minister of India, Narendra Modi picked his closest aide Amit Shah as home minister – a powerful position to look after internal security, while incumbent Rajnath Singh was moved to defense.
Outgoing Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is the new Minister for Finance and the surprise inductee, former Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar, has been allocated the critical Ministry of External Affairs — to signal the government’s priority on foreign policy.
Considered an expert on China and the U.S, Jaishankar became the first career diplomat to head foreign ministry in India. One of the longest-serving foreign secretaries, Jaishankar played a key role in shaping Modi’s foreign policy during his first term. He had played a key role in the Indo-U.S. civilian nuclear deal.
Amit Shah, as a ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president, played a crucial role in the return of his party’s government. His induction is apparently aimed to send tough message to Jammu and Kashmir, reeling under demand of freedom. Observers say, he is very tough and is known to defy conventions to achieve his goal.
He has often advocated assimilation of Jammu and Kashmir into India and abrogation of its special status enshrined in the Indian constitution. His first challenge will be to conduct provincial elections in the region. During the campaign trail, he referred to Muslim migrants from neighboring Bangladesh as “termites” and pledged to pass a law to ensure their deportation. His appointment makes Shah, the de-facto Number 2 in the government, the position earlier rested with Rajnath Singh.
Sitharaman is first woman to hold portfolio of finance in India. Earlier in 1970-71, then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had held it, as an additional portfolio. She was defense minister in the previous government, when India carried out air strikes targeting alleged terror training camps in Pakistan’s Balakot. It became a big rallying point for the BJP as it campaigned for reelection based on its tough stand against Pakistan and strong decision-making. She is also the only woman in the big four – the top ministries of home, defense, external affairs and finance that constitute all-powerful Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS). Her main agenda will be to arrest a sagging economy. She will also need to find resources to fund PM Modi’s campaign pledges, without undermining the budget deficit. India has projected a budget deficit of 3.4% budget of its GDP for the year through March 2020. She is likely to supervise long-pending reforms that include changes in labor laws, privatization moves, and ensuring new industrial development to address issues of foreign investors.
In the recently concluded elections, BJP won 303 out of 543 seats in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament. Its top rival, the Congress party led by Rahul Gandhi, could barely manage to win 52 seats.