Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has finally revealed its cabinet of 58 ministers today and only six of them are women. BJP’s sweeping victory in the 17th Lok Sabha Elections gave way to various speculations when it came to the cabinet and like the elections, it also has a few surprise elements. For instance, the party president Amit Shah has joined the cabinet this time. Among the women, former Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman and former Textile Minister Smriti Z Irani are all set to make a comeback.

Former Minister of State for Food Processing Industries, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, Former Union Cabinet Minister of Food Processing, Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Tribal MP from Sarjuga, Chattisgarh Renuka Singh Saruta were also sworn in yesterday. Also, Member of Parliament from West Bengal, Deboshree Chowdhury is making her entry into the union cabinet for the first time. While Sitharaman, Irani and Badal have been sworn in as Cabinet Ministers, Saruta, Jyoti and Chowdhury have been sworn in as Ministers of State.

While this time we have the highest ever number of women MPs in the Lok Sabha, 78 out of 543 elected leaders or roughly 14%, the percentage has come down to just about 10% when it comes to the cabinet. Sushma Swaraj, Maneka Gandhi and Uma Bharti aren’t in this term’s cabinet. Also, there is only one woman who is a first-timer in a list of nine first-time cabinet ministers.

All the ministers took the oath of office and secrecy along with PM Modi himself. In the earlier cabinet, Irani, who recently stunned everybody by winning from the Amethi seat, served in three departments – Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD), Minister of Information and Broadcasting and Ministry of Textiles. She helmed the HRD ministry from 2014 to 2016, the I&B ministry from 2017 to 2018 and the Textiles Ministry from 2016 to 2019.

Sitharaman became the highlight of the Modi government’s first term when she took the office as a Defence Minister—only the second woman to do so, after former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. As the Defence Minister, she was credited for expediting the decision-making process relating to defence procurement. She constituted a Defence Planning Committee to formulate an “action plan” to effectively deal with various security challenges the nation is facing.

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BJP MP from Fatehpur, UP, Sadhvi Jyoti is going to be a union minister for the second time in a row.  Throughout her previous term, she promoted afforestation, social and cultural values, protecting cows, upliftment of poor children and also helped women from financially weak backgrounds get married.

Member of Shiromani Akali Dal from Punjab and MP from Bhatinda, Badal is the lone SAD MP in the cabinet this time. She launched an NGO a while ago that works on social issues related to gender, skills, environment and harmony. During her term as a cabinet minister, she had to deal with issues of consumer safety after a controversy erupted over the presence of lead content in Nestle’s Maggi noodles in 2015.

While this time we have the highest ever women MPs in the Lok Sabha with 78 women out of 543 seats or roughly 14% of the Lok Sabha, the percentage has come down to just about 10% when it comes to union cabinet. There is only one woman who is a first-timer in a list of nine first-time cabinet ministers.

 

Sarjuga MP Saruta has been a two-time MLA and Women and Child Development Minister in the Raman Singh cabinet from 2003 to 2005. Later, she also served as the vice-chairperson of the Sarguja Development Authority.

Notably, Amit Shah urged that Chowdhury, the Raiganj MP, should be allowed to take the oath in her mother tongue. “I am feeling very good, I was expecting the phone call,” she told ANI before the ceremony. Interestingly, while addressing a rally at Raiganj ahead of the elections, Shah had assured the people that Chowdhury will be inducted as a minister in the Modi Cabinet if she won the polls.

“He has delivered on his promise,” she added.

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