India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi formed the smallest cabinet in 16 years as he seeks to fulfill a campaign promise of “minimum government, maximum governance.”
Modi will be in charge of “all important policy issues” and any portfolios not allocated to a minister, the president’s office said in a statement today. His Bharatiya Janata Party won a parliamentary majority for the first time in 30 years.
Arun Jaitley, 61, was named minister for finance, defense and corporate affairs even though he lost a seat in the elections. He was head of opposition in the upper house of parliament under the Congress-led government. During the BJP-led administration from 1999 to 2004, Jaitley worked as minister for information and broadcasting, asset sales, law, commerce and trade. Born into a family that migrated to India from Pakistan after the nations were separated in 1947, Jaitley was a leader of the youth wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a Hindu nationalist group and the BJP’s ideological parent. As a corporate lawyer, he has represented companies including Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc.
Rajnath Singh, 62, was named home minister. The BJP president was once a physics lecturer in his home of Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state in India. Singh became a member of the upper house of parliament and chief whip of the BJP in 1997. In 2000, he returned to Uttar Pradesh as chief minister, and later became the minister of agriculture and food processing in the Vajpayee government. As minister, he created a call center for farmers in financial trouble and created the farm income insurance program, according to his website.
Sushma Swaraj, 62, was named foreign minister, after serving as health and information ministers in previous cabinets. The BJP’s highest ranking female leader was among a group of veterans who’ve been sidelined as Modi has risen within the party, leading to friction that was evident during the campaign.
At the age of 25, Swaraj became the youngest cabinet minister in Haryana, one of India’s 28 states. She’s been elected six times as a member of parliament, and also had a stint as chief minister of Delhi in the 1990s.
Nitin Gadkari, 66, is India’s minister of road transport and highways, as well as shipping. He was BJP president from 2009 to 2013 before graft allegations thwarted his attempts to win a second term. Gadkari owns the Purti Group, which has at least five companies involved in manufacturing electricity, sugar, alcohol, ethanol, bio-diesel and fertilizers, according to its website. Gadkari was among those who seconded the motion to elect Modi as the party’s pick for prime minister.
Smriti Irani, 38, named human resource development minister, is the youngest member of Modi’s cabinet. Irani, known as India’s favorite daughter-in-law from her days as a television soap opera star, was appointed as the national secretary of the BJP in 2010 even after failing to win an election. In 2011, Irani was named as a member of the upper house of Indian parliament and served on the committee on coal and steel. Irani lost this year by more than 100,000 votes to the Congress party’s chief campaigner Rahul Gandhi.
Venkaiah Naidu, 64, was named minister for urban development, housing and urban poverty alleviation, and parliamentary affairs. He has held several posts within the party -- including that of president -- and has served on various national committees on economic affairs. During the last BJP government, Naidu was India’s minister of rural development.
Ram Vilas Paswan, 67, is the new minister for consumer affairs, food and public distribution.
Paswan is head of the Lok Jan Shakti Party, a six-member ally to the BJP in the lower house of parliament. From 1989 to 2002, Paswan served as minster of telecommunications, railways, labor and coal in partnership with both the BJP and Congress.
He joined the Congress-led coalition and became minister for chemical and fertilizer and steel in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government. He again joined the BJP-led coalition in 2014, saying he had been insulted by Sonia Gandhi’s Congress party, according to the NDTV news channel.
Paswan was elected to the lower house for the eighth time.
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