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New Cabinet: What Modi and his ministers did on Day 1

After being sworn into office, the Prime Minister’s Council of Ministers took charge yesterday. Here’s a glimpse into their first orders of business

Govt to discuss Art 370 in J&K with people: MoS PMO
The government is open to debate on merits and demerits of Article 370 for Jammu and Kashmir and would make efforts to “convince” the “unconvinced” by holding contact programmes with every section of society, Minister of State in PMO Jitendra Singh said yesterday.

Jitendra Singh
Jitendra Singh

He made it clear that BJP stood for abrogation of Article 370 (which gives special status to J&K), but it wanted to convince the people and have a democratic approach to finding a lasting solution. He said BJP was speaking to various stakeholders to apprise them of the article’s benefits. “We have called meetings in the Valley and have succeeded in convincing some of them,” he said.

Omar taunts BJP
Hitting out at the Centre, J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said the talk of revocation of Article 370, was “irresponsible” and “ill-informed”. “Mark my words and save this tweet long after Modi Govt is a distant memory either J&K won’t be part of India or Art 370 will still exist,” Omar said in a tweet.

Swaraj first woman to get External Affairs portfolio
Sushma Swaraj yesterday became the first woman External Affairs Minister, in yet another first for the 62-year-old BJP leader (see box). This makes her part of the CCS. Swaraj has also been given the charge of Overseas Indian Affairs.

Sushma Swaraj with Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh at Hyderabad House in New Delhi
Sushma Swaraj with Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh at Hyderabad House in New Delhi

She is assuming the charge of the foreign ministry, one of the senior-most offices in the Union cabinet, at a time when India’s growing influence gives it a prominent voice in global affairs even as issues in the region keep the largest democracy busy.

Ties with Pakistan and China are some of the perennial challenges for Indian foreign policy practitioners. A law graduate who practised in the Supreme Court, she has been elected seven times as a MP Member of Parliament and three times as a Member of the Legislative Assembly. She began her political career with RSS student wing ABVP in the 1970s.

A woman of many firsts
>> First woman Foreign Minister
>> First woman CM of Delhi
>> First woman spokesperson for any Indian political party
>> Youngest-ever cabinet minister at 25, (Haryana, 1977)

Good legal regime essential for good governance: Prasad
Ravi Shankar Prasad who took charge as union law and justice minister other than Ministry of Communications and IT that for “good governance, good legal regime is very necessary”.

Ravi Shankar Prasad. Pics/PTI
Ravi Shankar Prasad. Pics/PTI

“Those who invest in India must have an assurance of stable financial regime which should be fair, non-discriminatory and transparent,” he said, but warned against corruption which “would be dealt with very seriously”. On the Vodafone retrospective tax controversy, Prasad said it must be avoided.

Key points
>> On judiciary: Improvement in infrastructure; more courts, more judges.
>> On appointment of judges: Setting up of a National Judicial Commission
>> On Lokpal: An improved version was enacted into law

New Railway Minister Gowda stresses on safety
Against the backdrop of the Gorakhdham train mishap that has claimed 25 lives, new Railway Minister D V Sadananda Gowda said railway safety was a matter of concern and listed safety, security and speed as his top priorities.Union ministers D V Sadananda Gowda and Radha Mohan Singh after new Cabinet’s first meeting
Union ministers D V Sadananda Gowda and Radha Mohan Singh after new Cabinet’s first meeting

Promising to come up with a roadmap for the ministry, he said it is a priority sector for the BJP government and he would be seeking the Prime Minister’s views on the subject as Narendra Modi has certain “ideas” about the development of railways.

On the Gorakhdham train mishap, the Minister said, “The accident was unfortunate and it should not have happened. I need to study in depth the issues involved as railway safety is a concern for us. I want to have detailed discussion with railway officials about this. My priority is three Ses — safety, security and speed,” Gowda said.

Need to rebuild economy: Jaitley
In the newly sworn-in NDA, Jaitley has turned out to be the most important person after the Prime Minister, holding charge of portfolios of finance, defence and corporate affairs. After taking charge as finance minister, Jaitley hinted at cabinet expansion.

“For a transition phase, I will be looking after the ministry of defence also, but that's only an additional charge till when there is an expansion in the cabinet.” The Indian economy is passing through a very challenging time and there is need to re-build confidence of global and domestic investors in it, Jaitley said after taking charge.

Modi’s main man
In the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), the apex decision-making body of the cabinet, Jaitley holds two portfolios, finance and defence

Rajnath asks home secy for lowdown on internal security
Even before he assumes charge, new Home Minister Rajnath Singh got down to business and directed Home Secretary Anil Goswami to prepare a detailed presentation on the country’s internal security situation and other key issues.

Punjab CM Parkash Badal and Home Minister Rajnath Singh in New Delhi
Punjab CM Parkash Badal and Home Minister Rajnath Singh in New Delhi

Singh, who is likely to take charge of the ministry on Thursday, was briefed by the home secretary on various issues. “The Home Secretary briefed me on certain important issues pertaining to the Ministry of Home Affairs. I have asked him to prepare a detailed presentation,” Singh tweeted.

Issues to deal with
>> Tackling the Naxal violence,
>> Activities of terrorist outfits in the country’s hinterland
>> Infiltration from Pakistan
>> Illegal immigration from Bangladesh

SIT probe in black money
In its first decision, the new Union cabinet announced the formation of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) on black money. Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the SIT will have retired justice M B Shah as its head.

Secretary revenue, deputy governor of the Reserve Bank of India, director of the Intelligence Bureau, director of the Enforcement Directorate, director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), chairman of the Central Board of Direct Taxes and director of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) will be among the members. “We are committed to fighting black money,” Prasad said.

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