A day after the reboot of the union cabinet, a number of new (and promoted) ministers took charge of their assignments this morning, including Ashwini Vaishnaw – the new Railways and IT minister, Anurag Thakur – the Information and Broadcasting, and Sports minister, and Meenakshi Lekhi – the junior minister in the External Affairs and Culture ministries.
In a short video shared by news agency ANI, Mr Vaishnaw – who faces the daunting task of heading two of the more high-profile ministries – can be seen seated at his new office at Rail Bhawan (Indian Railways’ head office) in Delhi and interacting with his officers.
“Indian Railways is a major part of PM Modi’s vision. His vision for the railways is to transform the lives of the people… that everyone – common man, farmers and the poor – get the benefits. I will work for that vision,” Mr Vaishnaw said.
Ashwini Vaishnaw, a former IAS officer of the 1994 batch, holds an MBA from Wharton and and MTech from IIT (Kanpur), a government statement released yesterday said.
The Railway Ministry was earlier headed by Piyush Goyal, who will now lead the ministries of Commerce and Industry, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, and Textiles.
In other visuals shared by ANI, Mr Thakur and Ms Lekhi can also be seen at their new offices.
Anurag Thakur, who was formerly the junior Finance Minister, received a bouquet of flowers from officials at the I&B Ministry, and told reporters: “PM Modi has done terrific work in the last seven years to take India forward. The work done by people before me in the I&B Ministry and the responsibility given to me by the PM… I will try to meet those expectations,” he said.
Meenakshi Lekhi, a BJP Lok Sabha MP from Delhi, said: “Women have been given big responsibilities. People used to speak of women empowerment but PM made it possible that the country be led by empowered women. provided recognition & given responsibility, this is praiseworthy.”
A number of key portfolios – including health, law, information and technology and railways – have gone to new ministers and junior ministers who were elevated in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Council of Ministers that underwent a reboot on Wednesday. The total strength of the Council of Ministers is now 78, including the Prime Minister.
Key appointments include that of Mansukh Mandaviya as the Health Minister, replacing Dr Harsh Vardhan at a critical time when the government is working on a strategy to stave off a third wave of infections by ramping up vaccinations.
The current reshuffle has boosted the number of cabinet ministers from 21 to 30 and the number of junior ministers from 23 to 45. There are fewer junior ministers with Independent charge – the figure has dropped from nine to two.