In Cabinet reshuffle, Nirmala Sitharaman becomes first woman Defence minister
In the biggest turnaround in the third major reshuffle of the union Cabinet, Nirmala Sitharaman was on Sunday named the new Defence Minister, becoming only the second woman to hold the post since former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
Sitharaman, one of the four minister elevated to Cabinet rank on Sunday, after being recognised for their hard work, will take over from Jaitley who also holds the heavy workload of Finance ministry. On Friday, he had given indication that he may not be Defence minister for much longer.
"At least, I hope, not very long," Jaitley had quipped, when being asked about the reshuffle.
Nirmala Sitharaman, who was Commerce and Industry Minister till now, is seen to have gained Pm Modi’s confidence with her excellent work in the Commerce ministry. She also made her mark as party spokesperson when the BJP was in the opposition.
She recently visited China for a BRICS meeting where she was engaged in discussions with counterparts even as the protracted India-China border row played out in Doklam.
She credited her elevation to a cabinet rank minister to "cosmic grace" and support from party leadership. Sitharaman is among the four junior ministers who were given a cabinet berth.
"Somebody who has come from a small town, grown into the party with all the support of the leadership, and if given such responsibility, it just makes you feel sometimes that cosmic grace is there. Otherwise it is impossible," she told reporters here after taking oath.
To a query over the opposition's criticism of her working as commerce minister, the BJP leader said she was neither averse nor frightened by criticism.
"Every criticism is a message and we have to learn from it. I am not averse to criticism and also not frightened of it (criticism), but certainly take messages from them.
"Criticism per se do not reflect on performance, it only adds to your performance if you are ready to take on-board the corrections that may be workable," she said.
Sitharaman was also quick to highlight a number of initiatives by the commerce ministry like Start up India and Make in India.
"With the support of the prime minister, so many things have happened in the ministry like Start up India, Make in India etc. There is some misconception about 'Make in India', but it will be answered," she said.
Sitharaman was earlier Minister of State (Independent Charge) Commerce.
Earlier today, the Modi Cabinet got nine new faces which include BJP MPs Ashwini Kumar Choubey (Bihar), Virendra Kumar (Madhya Pradesh) and Shiv Pratap Shukla (Uttar Pradesh). The others are Anant Kumar Hegde, Raj Kumar Singh, Hardeep Puri, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Satyapal Singh and Alphons Kannanthanam.
Also, four Ministers of State -- Power and Renewable Energy Minister Piyush Goyal, Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman -- got promoted to the Union Cabinet.