Newly sworn-in union ministers today assumed charge of their offices, listing priority areas and vowing to carry forward the NDA’s agenda of working towards building a new India. Nitin Gadkari, Piyush Goyal and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi were among the senior ministers who took charge of their new responsibilities while a number of fresh inductees too began work in their respective ministries.
On the first day in his new office as Tourism minister, bureaucrat-turned-politician Alphons Kannanthanam touched upon the controversial issue of beef, saying it would continue to be consumed in Kerala. “The BJP does not say that beef cannot be eaten. We don’t dictate food habits in any place. It is for the people to decide,” he told PTI after assuming charge of the ministry.
He said the Tourism ministry had a “great role” to play in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream of creating a new India where all citizens lived with dignity. On his part, Road Transport minister Gadkari, who assumed additional charge of Water Resources, announced the formation of an inter-ministerial task force to expedite the implementation of the Centre’s Namami Gange mission, on conserving and cleaning the Ganges.
Accompanied by his predecessor Uma Bharti, he also said the ministry would come out with a detailed schedule on achieving its targets under the mission in a time-bound and transparent manner in a week. Gadkari replaced Bharti in the ministry, reportedly as the Namami Gange mission, dear to Modi and a key poll promise of the ruling BJP, was moving at a snail’s pace. Bharti assumed charge of the Drinking Water and Sanitation ministry.
Goyal took charge of the Railways ministry in the presence of Suresh Prabhu who was shifted to the Commerce ministry in the reshuffle, days after he offered to quit following two train accidents. Taking charge as Cabinet minister in the Minority Affairs ministry, Naqvi said he blamed a “mourning brigade” for painting a picture of gloom among minorities, stressing that they were not in an “atmosphere of fear”, but of trust.
The minister, elevated to the Cabinet rank yesterday, reiterated that the government would focus on empowering minority communities by providing them with education and employment opportunities. The newly appointed junior minister in the ministry, Virendra Kumar, said the Centre would ensure empowerment “sans appeasement”.
Nirmala Sitharaman, who was appointed Defence minister yesterday, is likely to take charge on Wednesday. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who was holding the additional charge of the ministry, had gone to Japan as the Defence minister to attend a two-day security dialogue. Jaitley had said yesterday that because of logistical constraints, he was attending the dialogue.
Most of the junior ministers, while assuming charge, said they would work tirelessly to realise the prime minister’s agenda of carrying forward development work and realising the dream of making a new India. In a major rejig of his council of ministers, Modi yesterday had promoted four junior ministers — Sitharaman Goyal, Dharmendra Pradhan and Naqvi — to cabinet rank and inducted nine new faces, including four former government officers, as ministers of state.