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Home / India News / Cosmic elevation to take a bow: Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman in headlines

Cosmic elevation to take a bow: Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman in headlines

Nirmala Sitharaman is only the second woman after Indira Gandhi to hold the post of defence minister since Independence.

india Updated: Sep 05, 2017 18:17 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Nirmala Sitharaman after taking oath of office at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi.
Nirmala Sitharaman after taking oath of office at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi.(PTI Photo)

Nirmala Sitharaman’s appointment as India’s new defence minister was the biggest surprise from Sunday’s cabinet reshuffle, creating quite a few ripples.

Sitharaman, the former minister of state for commerce, becomes the second woman after external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj to be a part of the cabinet committee on security (CCS) in PM Narendra Modi’s government. Before her, former prime minister Indira Gandhi was the only woman to have held the defence minister’s post.

On Monday morning, Sitharaman’s appointment was splashed across newspapers with headlines focusing on how she has broken the ‘glass ceiling’.

Her previous portfolios came in for scrutiny as well as her stint as BJP’s spokesperson, but there was focus on one other detail: that Sitharaman is an alumna of Delhi’s prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University, which has found itself reviled as a left-wing bastion.

Here’s a look at how the English media covered the cabinet reshuffle:

Hindustan Times

HT’s front Page report on Nirmala Sitharaman said the “surprise package” of restructuring in Modi’s council “complements the reputation she (Sitharaman) had built as a tough negotiator in the commerce ministry and successfully put across India’s point of view at the WTO, impressing Modi.”

“This is the second time Modi showed faith in the 58-year-old BJP leader from Tamil Nadu and an alumna of Jawaharlal Nehru University. She was not even a Member of Parliament when he picked her as junior commerce minister after the BJP swept to power in 2014.”

The Indian Express

The Indian Express’ front page article focused on women’s role in the Modi cabinet and included words of caution by members of opposition parties. The headline was a creatively played with the word ‘ceiling’ -- ‘Nirmala breaks glass C(CS) ceiling, Opp says go beyond symbolism’.

“With very few alternatives available among senior leaders, Sitharaman fitted the bill. She is serious, uses measured language, has a staunch nationalistic streak and has so far behaved in a way that no accusing finger has been pointed towards her,” the article said, quoting Congress MP Sushmita Dev.

The Times of India

The Times’ report, headlined ‘Nirmala Smashes Defence Glass Ceiling’, said Sitharaman was soft-spoken, articulate and influential, adding that the minister got to know about her portfolio hours after taking oath.

“The JNU alumna -- she is an MA in economics -- came to know of her portfolio hours after taking oath as a Cabinet-rank minister. With external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, Sitharaman will be the second woman member of the Cabinet Committee on Security , an elite ministerial group that deliberates on major strategic issues.”

“The Cabinet changes are seen to reflect Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah’s assessment of performance and accountability of the ministerial team.”

The Hindu

The Hindu’s page one story on Nirmala Sitharaman said the new defence minister was “conscious” of the fact that the CCS now has two women on board. It ran with a straight headline: ‘Nirmala Sitharaman gets Defence; key posts for Nitin Gadkari and Piyush Goyal’.

“With this, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), the most important of Cabinet sub-committees, has two women on board, with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj also part of it. The new Defence Minister was conscious of the fact and said so in one of her first reactions to her appointment. ‘What is more important is that there are going to be two women in the CCS’.”

The Telegraph

The Telegraph took a spin at the development, with the lead article on its first page reading: ‘JNU gifts defence minister’ and a slug over Sithraman’s oath-taking ceremony saying, “Cosmic elevation”.

“Sitharaman, a Modi-Shah favourite who relieves finance minister Jaitley of the additional charge of defence, will now rub shoulders with seniors Rajnath, Jaitley and Sushma in the government’s elite club, the cabinet committee on security.

Today’s exercise mirrored the dominance of the north -- the BJP’s stronghold -- and an effort to reach out to the south, where the party is keen to expand... But the highlight of the shuffle was Sitharaman’s rise from a low-profile, southern, English-speaking spokesperson to holder of a heavyweight ministry. She attributed it to “cosmic grace”.

The Tribune

Chandigarh-based The Tribune featured Sitharaman on the front page with the headline: ‘Take a bow, Defence Minister’. The report said her “promotion was by far the biggest statement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi”.

In another article on the rise of Sitharaman, Vibha Sharma wrote for The Tribune: “Apart from the optics of a woman Defence Minister who will be saluted by the three Service chiefs, Sitharaman with roots in both Tamil Nadu and Andhra region will be serving many messages.”

“She is someone who is considered among the performers. When she had joined the government in 2014 as a Minister of State, the only credentials she carried with her were a degree in economics from Jawaharlal Nehru University, a good track record as a BJP spokesperson and an impeccable knowledge of a range of subjects.

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