Sitharaman emerged as the biggest gainer in the Cabinet reshuffle on Sunday as Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave the heavyweight Defence portfolio to her.
Nirmala Sitharaman took the charge of India’s Defence Ministery on Sunday and became the first full-time woman Defence Minister. Before this, former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had held this post. It was Sushma Swaraj took charge as External Affairs Minister in 2014 and became a part of Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) – 30 years after Gandhi held the occasional charge of ministries under the committee, as per the report by the Indian Express.
Sitharaman emerged as the biggest gainer in the Cabinet reshuffle on Sunday as Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave the heavyweight Defence portfolio to her. Sitharaman became the Defence Minister to join Swaraj, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on the CCS, apart from the PM.
As per the report by Indian Express, over the last three governments, women ministers were only confined to ministries like – Social Justice, Women and Child Development, Health, Information & Broadcasting etc. There were not more than 10 women ministers on the Council at any one time under the last three governments in which one was helmed by the NDA and other by two by the UPA. Only Swaraj was among the pominent group who was in charge of Information and Broadcasting, and Health, and Mamata Banerjee as Railways Minister in NDA-I, reported Indian Express.
Sitharaman’s promotion on Sunday, came in for praise from women leaders across party lines. Former minister and Congress Rajya Sabha MP Kumari Selja was quoted as saying, “I welcome it. I am sure she will do justice to this.” She added, “But it should not end at this. We know the way things are in the country, especially in BJP-ruled states. On the ground, there is nothing like ‘beti bachao (save the girl child)’, there is only sloganeering. But I welcome her elevation as Defence Minister.”
CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat said that she was glad that the nation has a woman Defence Minister. She described Sitharaman’s promotion as a ‘happy occasion’. Congress MP, Sushmita Dev, was quoted by Indian Express as saying, “I think it is great optics. There is a message there. She has been appointed as Defence Minister. But there is also Sushma Swaraj, the External Affairs Minister. They should not just become symbols of women empowerment. They should be allowed to function with freedom.”
However, explaining that gender was not the sole criterion that went in favour of Sitharaman, a senior minister said, “The first thing was that Arun Jaitley was keen to relinquish the Defence portfolio. With very few alternatives available among senior leaders, Sitharaman fitted the bill. She is serious, uses measured language, has a staunch nationalistic streak and has so far behaved in a way that no accusing finger has been pointed towards her,” reported the Indian Express.