India to appoint Manohar Parrikar as new defence minister in cabinet expansion

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New Delhi | November 7, 2014 7:28 PM

The new defence minister will be Manohar Parrikar, the chief minister of Goa, said Sadanand Tanavade...

India will appoint a new defence minister, a senior party official and another source told Reuters on Thursday, in a move that would allow the current minister, Arun Jaitley, to focus on his main job of steering the economy out of troubled waters.

Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office in May, Jaitley has headed both the defence and finance ministries.

The new defence minister will be Manohar Parrikar, the chief minister of Goa, said Sadanand Tanavade, a general secretary of the state unit of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Another source with direct knowledge of the discussions said Modi had offered defence to Parrikar.

“He was offered the position,” the source said, but did not confirm if Parrikar had accepted. Tanavade later said that Parrikar had accepted a central ministry position but that the portfolio would be decided in New Delhi.

Parrikar was not immediately available to comment. Another source, a senior official in the party, said the changes would happen at the weekend, and would include a new defence minister.

Such a move would free Jaitley to fully focus on budget preparations and a series of free-market economic reforms he wants to implement, and follows an overhaul of his top team in the finance ministry in recent weeks.

Several of Modi’s ministers have multiple portfolios, leading to concerns that the overworked cabinet has not been able to fully tackle the problems the country faces.

In recent weeks Modi has reshuffled dozens of top bureaucrats, replacing many appointed by the last government with trusted aides from his home state of Gujarat.

Arvind Subramanian, one of the world’s leading economists, was made chief adviser in the finance ministry.

Jaitley spent several weeks in and out of hospital after an operation to treat chronic diabetes and related infections. Doctors said he was overworked.

Like Modi, Parrikar has deep links to a right wing nationalist organization that provides ideological guidance to the BJP and seeks a strong India on the global stage.

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