Major cabinet revamp
• 9 new faces, including Kerala's Alphons Kannanthanam, join Modi's council of ministers
• Nirmala Seetharaman gets defense, Piyush Goyal gets railway ministry
• Suresh Prabhu is the new commerce minister
• Suresh Prabhu says will cherish memories with 'rail family'
• Power minister Piyush Goyal, oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan, commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi elevated to cabinet rank
• Kannanthanam takes oath as minister of state, gets tourism (independent charge)
• Thrilled, I was not expecting this. Great surprise: Kannanthanam
New Delhi: Nirmala Sitharaman emerged as the biggest gainer of the cabinet reshuffle Sunday as prime minister Modi gave her the heavyweight defense portfolio in a major rejig, which saw nine new faces, including Kerala's Alphons Kannanthanam, being inducted. Sitharaman became the first woman defense minister of the country since Indira Gandhi held the charge.
Sitharaman, who was holding the commerce portfolio as a minister of state, was elevated along with Goyal, Dharmendra Pradhan and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi to the cabinet rank. Kannanthanam becomes MoS for tourism (independent charge), and electronics and IT.
Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Dharmendra Pradhan, Nirmala Sitharaman and Piyush Goyal, who were all holding independent charge as state ministers, were promoted to the cabinet rank, which is being seen as an acknowledgment of their performance.
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, 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.
A BJP rejig
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 PM's efforts to give a fresh impetus to governance.
Kannanthanam and Puri are currently not members of Parliament and are likely to be elected to the Rajya Sabha within the stipulated six months.
'Endorsement of good performance'
Suresh Prabhu was shifted to the commerce and industry ministry, while Pradhan and Naqvi retained their portfolios of oil and gas and minority affairs respectively. Piyush Goyal will continue to head the coal ministry along with railways.
Modi stripped cabinet minister Uma Bharti of the charges of water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation and handed them over to Nitin Gadkari. Bharti will take care of ministry of drinking water and sanitation.
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 initiative to forgo subsidized cooking gas voluntarily.
Incumbent Suresh Prabhu Sunday 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 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.