The rise and rise of Nirmala Sitharaman

Sitharaman is the first full time woman defence minister

GN Bureau | September 4, 2017


#Nirmala Sitharaman   #defence minister   #cabinet reshuffle   #Narendra Modi  


The erudite Nirmala Sitharaman being appointed India’s first full time defence minister was the highlight of the cabinet rejig carried out by prime minister Narendra Modi – and it was completely out of the blue.
 
Nirmala Sitharaman’s appointment takes place in the midst of India carrying out its first ever military reforms.
 
The decision to appoint Sitharaman, 58, shows that Modi has an open mind about choosing the best for key ministerial positions. Gender, clearly, was not a factor. In fact, the decision went down quite well with her appointment being described as shattering the glass ceiling by those fighting for gender parity.
 
An alumnus of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Sitharaman was married into a family that supported the Congress. But, she took a decision to go with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Before that, she was appointed member of the National Commission for Women (NCW).
 
After her appointment, Nirmala Sitharaman, who prefers wearing sarees, said that she is keeping an "open mind" on women in combat roles. "After my taking charge, I will be certainly be going through a lot of what has happened on that front... I will keep an open mind and look into the matter," she was quoted as saying.
 
Sitharaman is the first woman defence minister of India since Indira Gandhi who, as prime minister, twice handled the portfolio nearly three decades ago.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley was given the additional charge of the defence ministry after Manohar Parrikar put in his papers to become the Goa's chief minister.
 
Nirmala Sitharaman would have hands full as the defence minister since both the eastern as well as the western fronts are on high alert. The Doklam crisis may be over for now, but a state of readiness has to be maintained.
 
In a first ever exercise after Independence, the defence ministry in consultation with the army has decided to reform the army in a planned manner. These decisions were approved by then defence minister Arun Jaitley.
 
The first phase of the reforms involves redeployment and restructuring of approximately 57,000 posts of officers/JCOs/ORs and civilians. Major reforms concerning the following have been approved.
 
Nirmala Sitharaman, who was earlier the commerce minister, had spoken to Governance Now after demonetisation.
 
She had then said: “It’s by far the bold… the boldest of all the steps, in line with several other steps the government has undertaken since 2014, to make the economy robust and transparent. The government has taken steps to set up SIT [to unearth black money], the passing of the Benami [Property] Act, asked various countries to share information about the money Indians have deposited in their banks without giving information at home, the income disclosure scheme that just ended, the signing of double taxation avoidance treaties with Cyprus and Singapore… These all steps were being taken continuously as the opposition was asking the government questions about unearthing black money within the country. This will make the economy a lot more cleaner and all transactions transparent.”
 
 
 
 
 

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