Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has been added to a number of key cabinet committees after a list put out in the morning named him in only two panels, fueling speculation. Rajnath Singh’s office has denied reports that the changes were made after the veteran BJP leader threatened to quit. Mr Singh will now be in six of the eight cabinet committees announced after Prime Minister Narendra Modi started a second term, including the one on political affairs.
In what was seen as a sign of Home Minister Amit Shah’s status as de-facto Number 2 in the government, the BJP chief was named in all eight committees. PM Modi is in six of them. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is in seven panels and Commerce and Railways Minister Piyush Goyal in five.
Rajnath Singh was first included just in the Cabinet Committees on Economic Affairs and Security. He has now been added to the panels on parliamentary affairs; political affairs; investment and growth; and employment and skill development as well.
Rajnath Singh’s exclusion had raised eyebrows because the minister who is number two in the government – by convention the person who is sworn in right after the prime minister – usually presides over the cabinet and the political affairs committee in the absence of the Prime Minister. Nirmala Sitharaman as Defence Minister was part of the previous government’s political affairs committee.
Sources suggest an intervention by the RSS or Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ideological mentor of the BJP, after an upset Rajnath Singh protested the perceived slight.
With the revision, Rajnath Singh has been named in six committees above Amit Shah – except the panels on appointments and accommodation. The Cabinet Appointments Committee has only PM Modi and Amit Shah.