Profiles of Key Ministers
Arun Jaitley: Minister of Finance (including Corporate Affairs) and Minister of Defence
Arun Jaitley is also one of India’s top corporate lawyers. He has been practicing in the Supreme Court and High Courts since 1977, representing the Government of India, a broad spectrum of political leaders and multinational corporations.
In the past, he has been Union Minister of Commerce and Industry, and Law and Justice, in the NDA government (1998-2004). As Law Minister, he gave shape to the policy of judicial reforms. He has also held portfolios in the ministries of Information and Broadcasting, Shipping, and Disinvestment.
Mr. Jaitley is considered more of a strategist than a grassroots politician. In the 2014 general elections, he was the BJP’s Lok Sabha candidate from Amritsar but was defeated. He is believed to be personally close to the intensely private Mr. Modi. In the run-up to the elections, he strongly defended Mr. Modi when other party veterans were criticizing him. He is seen as an articulate face of the party who is an advocate of market reforms and shares Mr. Modi’s “minimum government, maximum governance” adage.
Holding the crucial portfolios of Finance and Defence, Mr. Jaitley is the most powerful member of the Cabinet. In his first speech after taking charge as Finance Minister, Mr. Jaitley said the challenges are obvious: restoring growth, containing inflation and concentrating on fiscal consolidation.
About his appointment to the Ministry of Defence, he said that he would be looking after the MoD “for a transient phase” and that it is “only an additional charge till there’s an expansion in the cabinet itself.” He did however speak of the need for “defence modernization” and speeding up the procurement of equipment.
Sushma Swaraj: Minister of External Affairs
Sushma Swaraj was the Leader of the Opposition in the 15th Lok Sabha, and has previously served as Union Minister of Health, Information & Broadcasting and Telecommunications.
Despite being seen as a dissenter to Mr. Modi in the run-up to the elections, she has been given the crucial external affairs ministry in recognition of her considerable experience and achievements. Immediately after taking office, Ms. Swaraj accompanied Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a series of bilateral meetings with eight South Asian leaders including Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, Pakistan President Nawaz Sharif and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa who witnessed his inauguration on Monday.
Over the course of her distinguished career, she has achieved several ‘firsts’: youngest ever Cabinet Minister (at 25), first female spokesperson of a national party, and the BJP’s first female Chief Minister, Union Minister, General Secretary and Leader of the Opposition. She is the first and only female MP honored with the Outstanding Parliamentarian Award. As Minister of Health, she set up six AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Sciences) across the country. Her most notable decision as Minister for Information and Broadcasting was to declare film as an industry, which made the film industry eligible for bank finance.
Rajnath Singh: Minister of Home Affairs
Rajnath Singh is the current President of the BJP, and has experience handling a variety of administrative assignments in his long political career. The son of a farmer from a village in Uttar Pradesh (UP), Singh is known for being a keen practitioner of realpolitik. He was propelled into the limelight in 1991 when, as UP’s Education Minister, he introduced the Anti-Copying Act. He was the Minister of Surface Transport when the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government launched the successful National Highway Development Project. As Union Minister of Agriculture, he initiated important projects like the Kisan Call Centre and Farm Insurance schemes. He has also been the Chief Minister of UP.
Mr. Singh is a party heavyweight. Part of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) since the age of 13, he has also served as president of BJP’s youth wing and the BJP unit in UP. He was twice elected National President of BJP. He has been a vocal supporter of Mr. Modi, and is slated to be one of the most influential people in this government.
As Home Minister, Mr. Singh will handle the country’s internal security and international border with Pakistan, China, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan, and be part of the Prime Minister’s Cabinet Committee on Security, the country’s highest decision-making body on security matters.
Nirmala Sitharaman: Minister of State for Commerce (Independent Charge)
Nirmala Sitharaman is currently the National Spokesperson for the BJP. She joined the party in 2006 after a brief stint as a member of the National Commission for Women. This is Ms. Sitharaman’s first stint in a ministerial post.
After being sworn in, Ms. Sitharaman said “We have explained about FDI in multi-brand retail that it probably is not best opened up now because medium and small sized traders or small farmers have not been adequately empowered… if you open up the flood gates of FDI in MBRT, it may affect them”.
Ravi Shankar Prasad: Minister of Law & Justice and Minister of Telecom
A distinguished senior advocate at the Supreme Court of India, Ravi Shankar Prasad has also been a member of BJP’s national executive, a party spokesperson and General Secretary. In the BJP’s ten-year spell out of power since 2004, Prasad has been a prominent public face of the party, articulating its stand on key issues.
In the past, he has held the position of Minister of State in the ministries of Coal & Mines, Law & Justice, and Information & Broadcasting. He is lauded for having accelerated reforms in the coal and mining sectors, speeding up the process of fast-track courts and initiating reforms in the radio and television industry.
As Telecom Minister, Mr. Prasad will have to recharge the debt-laden and litigation-prone sector, and will have to make a decision on retrospective taxation as well as work towards restoring the confidence of global investors.
Harsh Vardhan: Minister of Health & Family Welfare
Dr. Harsh Vardhan is a Lok Sabha member and also enjoys the reputation of having never lost an Assembly election. Formerly, when the BJP was in power, he held the portfolios of Education, Health and Law in the Delhi government.
An ENT surgeon by profession, Dr. Vardhan is known to be the pioneer of India’s highly successful Pulse Polio Programme, an initiative that saw India become a polio-free country in January 2014. As the new health minister, Dr. Vardhan has promised a 100% transparent administration. He said that upon assuming his new position, the focus of his work would be on e-governance and a corruption free administration. He has promised to consult international and national experts in improving the health system of the country.
Radha Mohan Singh: Minister of Agriculture
Radha Mohan Singh was an agriculturist and social worker who started his political career in the BJP’s youth wing. A five-term MP, he has been known as an organizational leader and has been credited for contributing to the party’s growth in Bihar.
Though Mr. Singh has not held a ministerial charge previously, in his parliamentary career, he has served as a member of various committees on ministries for Industry, Mines, Railways, Communications, Petroleum and Natural Gas, Surface Transport and External Affairs. His broad interest areas in agriculture, based on questions asked in Parliament and debates in which he has participated, include organic farming, food security, small and marginal farmers, and foodgrain supply. Some of his most important initiatives include the Bihar Sugarcane Amendment bill 1981 and the establishment of Krishi Vigyan Kendra (Agricultural Science Center).
In recent statements, after being appointed cabinet minister, Singh said that his key priorities will be to empower farmers and control the price-rise of agricultural commodities.
Sanjeev Kumar Baliyan: Minister of State of Agriculture, Food Processing Industries
Dr. Sanjeev Kumar Baliyan is a PhD in veterinary anatomy from the Haryana Agricultural University at Hisar and was an assistant professor there before joining the Haryana government as a veterinary surgeon. Post his stint with the Haryana government, Dr. Baliyan became a partner at a real estate firm and joined the BJP. Dr. Baliyan is the only BJP MP from western Uttar Pradesh who has been given a ministerial position in the Modi government.
Nihalchand Chauhan: Minister of State of Agriculture and Fertilizers ( Independent Charge)
Nihalchand Chauhan is the lone MP from Rajasthan to have gotten a ministerial berth. A four time MP, he was one of the youngest parliamentarians to be elected from Rajasthan at 26. The now 43-year-old farmer and social worker still maintains a low profile. He has been a member of several Lok Sabha committees, including science and technology, agriculture, and health and family welfare.
Ananth Kumar: Minister of Chemicals & Fertilisers
Ananth Kumar is a political strategist from the RSS and a six-time Lok Sabha member. He served as Minister for Civil Aviation in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee cabinet and in various other ministries such as Tourism, Sports & Youth Affairs, Culture, Urban Development and Poverty Alleviation during NDA rule. As the civil aviation minister, Mr. Kumar initiated a facelift of the existing HAL Bengaluru International Airport along with aero-bridges and international connectivity and created a perishable cargo handling facility. He was also part of the National infrastructure Task Force and ensured the inclusion of Bengaluru in the Golden Quadrilateral highway project.
Ram Vilas Paswan: Minister of Food & Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs
Ram Vilas Paswan is the only leader to have served as a cabinet minister under six different Prime Ministers. He has also served on various committees in the Ministries of Home Affairs, Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, and Urban Development. He established the Dalit Sena and has been considered one of the most important Dalit leaders in the country.
As a member of the Janata Party, he has been the Minister of Labour and Welfare, Railways, Communication and Coal. Mr. Paswan formed and became the President of the Lok Janshakti Party in 2002. He then broke from Janata Dal (United) and allied with the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. He was appointed the Minister of Chemicals and Fertilizers and Minister of Steel from 2004 - 2009. Paswan broke from the UPA in 2009 to form an alliance with Laloo Prasad Yadav and Mulayam Singh known as the Fourth Fronth. He lost the elections but was able to keep a Rajya Sabha seat.
In his recent statements after being appointed cabinet minister, Mr. Paswan said that his top priorities will be to contain price rise in food items, improve the public distribution system and create adequate storage capacity for food grains.
Dharmendra Pradhan: Minister of State of Petroleum and Natural Gas (Independent Charge)
Dharmendra Pradhan is a National General Secretary of the BJP. He is the son of former BJP MP Dr. Debendra Pradhan who was in charge of surface transport in the previous NDA government. A close aide of Modi, he has led the party in important states like Bihar, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and he was also in charge of the elections in Uttarakhand and Bihar where the BJP achieved a clean sweep. Mr. Pradhan also headed the Jan Samvad, the sub-committee in charge of increasing public participation in the electoral process. Mr. Pradhan is known for his exceptional ability to manage the party cadre and for strong organizational skills during election periods. He has said, after being sworn in, that energy self-reliance is a pre-requisite for the country to become an economic superpower and hinted at a pro-poor approach in dealing with fuel and gas price hike.
Jitendra Singh: Minister of State of Science and Technology (Independent Charge), Earth Sciences (Independent Charge), Prime Minister Office Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions, Department of Atomic Energy, Department of Space
Dr. Jitendra Singh is a renowned diabetologist turned politician and has been elected for the first time as a Member of Parliament. Having served in the Jammu Government Medical College and Hospital, Dr. Singh regularly organises medical camps and special clinics in remote areas to provide better medical facilities. An author of eight books and an award-winning columnist, he is also the National Executive member and chief spokesperson for the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
On his first day in office, Dr. Jitendra Singh made a controversial statement that Article 370 (which grants special autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir) has harmed the state more than benefited it, although he later clarified that this was not the view of the party.
Rao Inderjit Singh: Minister of State of Planning (Independent Charge), Statistics and Programme Implementation (Independent Charge), Defence
Rao Inderjit Singh has held a variety of portfolios including provincial Minister for Food and Civil Supplies, Cabinet Minister for the Environment, Forest, Medical and Technical Education and Minister of State for External Affairs and Union Minister of State for Defence Production. During his stint with Defence Production, Mr. Singh pushed indigenous defence production and key DRDO projects including the Arjun tank and the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA). He was a Lok Sabha MP from the Indian National Congress INC, serving three consecutive terms before joining the BJP. He has also been chairing the Parliamentary Information Technology Committee since 2009.
Raosaheb Dadarao Patil Danve: Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution
Raosaheb Dadarao Patil is one of the most senior BJP MPs and has been elected to parliament four consecutive times. An agriculturalist by profession, he has also been a Member of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly twice and chaired several committees including the District Monitoring, Panchayati Raj and Assurances Committees. He has played a crucial role in increasing the BJP’s influence in the region. Mr. Danve has promised to implement water conservation projects, work for the growth of the cooperative sector, get the Jalgaon-Solapur rail track sanctioned and improve infrastructure for steel industries in Jalna.
General V.K. Singh: Minister of State for Development of North Eastern Region (Independent Charge), External Affairs, Overseas Indian Affairs)
A former Army Chief of Staff, General Singh was a part of Anna Hazare's anti-corruption movement against the UPA government before joining the BJP prior to the 2014 general elections. General Singh was the first commando to be promoted to a general. He was trained at the US Army Ranger school, in charge of the Ambala-based 2 Strike Corps and the Kolkata-based Eastern Command before assuming responsibility as the Army Chief in 2010.