Banking on impeccable credentials, PM Narendra Modi has handed over the key portfolio of External Affairs to former Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar. Casting its net wide, the government has chosen a career diplomat over a politician. Jaishankar, who served as the Ambassador to the US and China, was part of the team which negotiated the Indo-US nuclear deal during UPA-I’s term. He faces the onerous task of strengthening India’s relations with the US, while safeguarding energy security and ensuring stable India-Iran ties. Dealing with Pakistan in the Pulwama-Balakot aftermath will be another challenge for him. Amit Shah has been rewarded with the Home Ministry for leading the BJP to a landslide victory. His leadership prowess is likely to stand him in good stead while running a tough ministry. Rajnath Singh, known for a no-nonsense approach, is a good choice as Defence Minister. Synergy between Shah and Rajnath will be vital for decisions impacting national security, which was a major poll plank of the saffron party.
Nirmala Sitharaman as Finance Minister has caught Indian investors by surprise as they were expecting the portfolio to go to Shah or Piyush Goyal. Sitharaman, however, is no stranger to the financial world. This protégé of former FM Arun Jaitley served as a junior minister for Finance and Corporate Affairs, besides running the Commerce Ministry.
NDA-I did not give the beleaguered farm sector much to cheer about. Sending out a strong message to non-performers, PM Modi has replaced Radha Mohan Singh with Narendra Singh Tomar as the Agriculture Minister. The top brass’ confidence in Tomar’s abilities is not misplaced; as Rural Development Minister, his deft handling of welfare schemes contributed to the BJP’s electoral success. Former Uttarakhand CM Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank will head the Human Resource Development Ministry, which remained in the eye of the storm over alleged attempts at saffronisation of education. Nishank has replaced Prakash Javadekar, who has been given back Environment and Climate Change. It is expected that globally relevant ecological issues will finally get due attention. All in all, the line-up seems promising. Hopefully, the ministers will put their best foot forward in the best interests of the country.