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Gowda, Vardhan ‘demoted’

Gowda, Vardhan ‘demoted’
Highlights

After an expansion and reshuffle of the Narendra Modi cabinet, Manohar Parrikar is the country\'s new Defence Minister and Suresh Prabhu will hold the Railways portfolio.

Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu blesses Supriyo as the latter takes charge as the Minister of State for Urban DevpNew Delhi: After an expansion and reshuffle of the Narendra Modi cabinet, Manohar Parrikar is the country's new Defence Minister and Suresh Prabhu will hold the Railways portfolio.

Despite giving up the additional charge of Defence, Arun Jaitley continues to hold a clutch of crucial portfolios; the media-savvy lawyer will now also handle Information and Broadcasting, so far held by Prakash Javadekar.

The BJP's Karnataka leader Sadananda Gowda handed Railways to Prabhu and got the Law and Justice portfolio, being seen as a demotion. But the biggest loser by far seems to be Delhi BJP veteran Dr Harsh Vardhan, who gave up the Health portfolio for the more low-key Science and Technology and Earth Sciences.

There has been speculation that the move could be linked to freeing the doctor up for fresh elections due in Delhi.

Health will now be handled by JP Nadda, a BJP organisation man for years and first-time minister who debuted straight in the Cabinet rank.

Ravi Shankar Prasad, who had two big ministries, has given up Law, and keeps the Communications and Information Technology portfolio. Similarly, Nitin Gadkari, who had additional charge of Rural Development since Gopinath Munde died in June, gave up that portfolio to new minister Birendra Singh. Gadkari will focus on Road Transport and Highways and Shipping.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley greets Jayant Sinha as he takes charge as Minister of State for Finance
No minister of state with independent charge has been elevated to cabinet rank. Rajiv Pratap Rudy, sworn in on Sunday, will have independent charge of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship. Other new ministers with independent charge are Bandaru Dattatreya (Labour and Employment) and Mahesh Sharma (Tourism). Rudy and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi will be junior ministers for Parliamentary Affairs. Naqvi will also assist Cabinet minister Najma Heptullah in Minority Affairs.

Jaitley gets two new ministers as his juniors - Jayant Sinha, son of former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha, will assist him in Finance. Olympic shooting medalist and former armyman Rajyavardhan Rathore will assist him in Information and Broadcasting. Suresh Prabhu said rail safety and customer service would be his priorities, as he seeks to unleash the true potential of the transport behemoth.

"We have faced lots of challenges in running the railways in the past. We do have potential which has not been properly utilised," he told reporters after assuming charge.

"The Prime Minister has decided that the condition (of railways) has to change...Our two focus areas will be customer service and railway safety as passenger safety is increasingly becoming an area of concern," he said.

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