Sulking Rajnath added to key panels after rejig

On Wednesday, the government had constituted committees on investment and growth to spur the economic growth, and on employment and skill development to deal with the issues of unemployment. (File Photo)

Within a week of taking over, Modi 2.0 carried out a major rejig in eight crucial Cabinet committees on Thursday, a development that was marked by flip-flops.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, who was earlier included in only two of the eight panels — six headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and two by Home Minister Amit Shah — was finally made part of six committees. He was also made the chairman of the panel on parliamentary affairs. Shah is part of all the eight panels.

Rajnath’s name had earlier figured as just a member on two panels — Cabinet Committee on Security and Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs. He was not heading any of the eight committees. This had led to speculation about his marginalisation in the Modi cabinet.

The government later issued an amended list of reconstituted committees in the evening, without giving any reasons for the same. Rajnath’s office also denied reports in some section of the media which said the miffed defence minister had threatened to quit.

Rajnath will now head the panel on Parliamentary Affairs, which he had earlier chaired as home minister. His name was also included in the committee on political affairs, investment and growth, and employment and skill development.

Six of these panels — Appointments Committee of the Cabinet, Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs, Cabinet Committee on Security, Cabinet Committee on Investment and Growth, and Cabinet Committee on Employment and Skill Development — are being chaired by the prime minister.

Shah heads the Cabinet Committee on Accommodation while the Committee on Parliamentary Affairs, which was to be headed by him earlier, will be chaired by Rajnath, whose ministry was changed from home to defence this time.

Finance and Corporate Affairs Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is the only woman member in the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), a crucial panel where decisions to carry out aerial strikes in Balakot in Pakistan and the surgical strike after the Uri attack were taken. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar finds a place in the CCS, headed by Modi. Rajnath Singh and Amit Shah are the other members.

Apart from Sushma, the other notable absentee in CCS is Arun Jaitley, who opted out of the Cabinet citing health reasons. In the previous CCS, for the first time, there were two women members — Sushma and Nirmala.

The other panels which the prime minister heads include the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs in which both Rajnath Singh and Amit Shah are members, the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs, Cabinet Committee on Investment and Growth and the Cabinet Committee on Employment and Skill Development. Shah heads the Cabinet Committee on Accommodation and the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs.

It is probably for the first time that committees on investment and growth and employment and skill development have been set up. Job creation being the grey area of Modi’s first dispensation and economic slowdown emerging as a giant challenge, the prime minister’s focus is clear as he heads these panels. Battling a 20-quarter low GDP growth of 5.8% in the January-March quarter and a five-year-low of 6.8% GDP growth in 2019, the Modi government has its task cut out.  

The prime minister is not a member of the two committees headed by Shah — parliamentary affairs and accommodation.

Shah is on all the eight committees while Nirmala Sitharaman, a JNUite who has had a meteoric rise in the last two years, is a member of seven panels.  

Piyush Goyal is part of five committees while Nitin Gadkari is on four panels and is a special invitee in the fifth. Dharmendra Pradhan is on two panels.  

Smriti Irani, who defeated Rahul Gandhi in Amethi, is not in any of the committees but has been inducted as a special invitee in the Cabinet Committee on Employment and Skill Development, which has two other women — Nirmala Sitharaman as member and Harsimrat Kaur Badal as special invitee.

Harsimrat is also a member of the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs and the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs.

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