India’s Narendra Modi on Tuesday took charge as the newly appointed prime minister of the world's largest democracy and Asia's third-largest economy, and announced a list of politicians who will hold key positions in his government.
Modi's swearing-in ceremony was attended by several leaders of countries in the region, including Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Sharif, who told local media that he had come to India to "build better ties," reportedly discussed the issue of terrorism and regional trade with Modi, who also met with Karzai and discussed the attack on the Indian consulate in Herat last week.
After the meeting, Karzai said, according to Hindustan Times, a local newspaper: "According to the information that we have available to us -- one given to us by a Western intelligence agency -- the perpetrators were of Lashkar-e-Taiba," one of the most active militant groups focused on the Kashmir region, according to the National Counterterrorism Center.
Modi's cabinet, which is said to be smaller and leaner than the previous one formed by the Congress-led government, reportedly has people close to the prime minister holding key positions. Among those is Arun Jaitley, 61, who has twice before been the law minister, and will be finance minister in the Modi government. Jaitley, a lawyer who has in the past led Indian delegations to the former Soviet Union, Europe, and U.S., will also be the interim manager of the defense portfolio.
"The challenges are very obvious. We have to restore back the pace of growth, contain inflation, and obviously concentrate on fiscal consolidation itself," Jaitley said Tuesday, according to NDTV, a local news source, after taking charge as the country’s finance minister. "For a transient phase, I will be looking after Ministry of Defence also, but that's only an additional charge till there's an expansion in cabinet itself," he said.
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Rajnath Singh, 62, who is also the president of the Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, has been appointed as the minister for Home Affairs. A former chief minister of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh from 2000 to 2002, Singh has also been minister for agriculture, education and surface transport, during his political career. The Home Affairs ministry is a significant one, being responsible for the management of internal security and the country's international borders, as well as managing parts of the strife-torn region of Jammu and Kashmir.
Sushma Swaraj, 62, has been given the role of Minister of Foreign Affairs. Swaraj, a veteran politican and a reputed speaker, has in the past handled the office of information and broadcast, and health care, and for a brief period of time in 1998 was the chief minister of the state of New Delhi. Most recently, she was the leader of the opposition, representing the BJP in the parliament's lower house.
The first meeting of Modi's newly formed cabinet is scheduled to take place Tuesday evening, news reports said. Here is a list of the key positions and who will run them in Modi's government.
Narendra Modi: Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, Department of Atomic Energy, Department of Space, All important policy issues and all other portfolios not allocated to any Minister
M Venkaiah Naidu: Urban Development, Housing, Urban Poverty Alleviation, Parliamentary Affairs
Nitin Gadkari: Road Transport and Highways, Shipping
DV Sadananda Gowda: Railways
Maneka Gandhi: Women and Child Development
Ravi Shankar Prasad: Communications & Information Technology; Law and Justice
Ashok Gajapathi Raju: Civil Aviation
Narendra Singh Tomar: Mines, Steel, Labour and Employment
Radha Mohan Singh: Agriculture
Thaawar Chand Gehlot: Social Justice and Empowerment
Smriti Irani: Human Resource Development
Najma Heptulla – Minority Affairs