Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today took additional charge of the Defence Ministry, a dual position he had held for around six months in 2014. Jaitley was given the charge of the Defence Ministry yesterday after Manohar Parrikar stepped down from the position to go back to Goa to become its Chief Minister. Jaitley, one of the senior most ministers in the Modi cabinet, was in-charge of Defence Ministry between May 26 to November 9 in 2014, before Parrikar was brought in from Goa. Parrikar’s tenure as Defence Minister saw clearance of a raft of arms deals besides simplification of the acquisition process. He had also pushed for a number of stalled acquisition projects.
A Rashtrapati Bhawan communique had yesterday said that as advised by the Prime Minister, the President has directed that Jaitley shall be assigned the charge of the Defence Ministry in addition to his existing portfolios. It is not clear for how long Jaitley will keep the two key portfolios.
The deals finalised during Parrikar’s tenure included purchase of 21 Apache attack helicopters and 15 Chinook heavy-lift choppers from American aviation giant Boeing and the US government.
Last year, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) headed by Parrikar had approved the much delayed purchase of 145 Ultra Light Howitzers worth about Rs 5,000 crore from the US and also bulk production of 18 Dhanush artillery guns, the first acquisition of such a weapon system by the army in three decades since the Bofors scandal.
In March last year, Parrikar had come out with a new defence procurement policy with an aim to ensure transparency in defence deals, fast-track acquisition process and indigenisation of defence procurement.
In September last year, India had inked a Euro 7.87 billion (approx Rs 59,000 crore) deal with France for purchasing 36 Rafale fighter jets capable of carrying nuclear weapons and equipped with latest missiles.
It was under Parrikar, known for taking a hard line on the issue of countering cross-border terrorism, that the army had launched the surgical strike in PoK in September last year. On Sunday, the Goa BJP had passed a resolution requesting the central leadership to make Parrikar the Chief Minister. BJP’s prospective allies had also made Parrikar’s return a pre-condition for their support.
Parrikar, an IIT (Bombay) alumni, had said some time ago he had still not “settled” in the national capital as he can never be a “Delhi politician”, indicating his fondness for Goa.