Rajnath Singh, Minister for Home Affairs
Rajnath Singh, Minister for Home Affairs

Rajnath Singh began the year on a high. Television screens beamed live pictures of him and Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Ganga aarti in Varanasi after the Bharatiya Janata Party's momentous Lok Sabha election win.

From there onwards, Singh, who was seen as a possible number two in the Modi government, has had many ups and downs.


Of these, the more recent ones have seen the government -- and Singh as home minister -- court controversy over the rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits in the Kashmir valley. On internal security, Singh's record has been mixed.

Terrorist attacks have not made headlines, but no great strides have been made in tackling Kashmir's problems or cross-border issues, Naxalism and the insurgency in the north-east.

Singh has been criticised for his statements on religious conversion and recently for the home ministry's goof-up in Parliament over the whereabouts of Dawood Ibrahim.

The attacks on churches have left their own mark on his tenure, requiring PM Modi to spell out his government's belief in complete freedom of faith for all.

Early in the government's tenure, the minister faced a grave setback vis-a-vis his perceived closeness to Modi, after stories of his son Pankaj's, alleged misconduct surfaced.

Nearly a year later, the number two slot in the government appears to have been firmly wrested by Rajnath's ministerial colleague and long-time rival, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

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Sushma Swaraj, Minister for External Affairs

As anyone who has heard her parliamentary speeches knows, India's low-profile but effective foreign minister, Sushma Swaraj, is thorough and methodical.

Yet, in the external affairs ministry, which she entered after losing to Modi in the BJP's prime ministerial sweepstakes, few expected Swaraj to be a pushover.

Prime Minister Modi firmly occupies the centre-stage on diplomacy and foreign affairs, a key priority area for his government.


Swaraj, it was believed, had been consigned to a light-weight role in a ministry overshadowed by Modi's presence. Not one to be deterred by such predictions, Swaraj has worked relentlessly and without fuss, touring the world and doing the groundwork for the PM's more prominent visits whether to Japan, the United States and Europe or most recently to China.

Several critics, including opposition leaders, have charged that she's a "helpless" foreign minister, but she has countered that she is "influential".

She has much to show in terms of India's rescue work in war-torn Yemen and in other troubled areas like Iraq where the Indian government's efforts have won applause and appreciation.

Swaraj has also won hearts and many fans by using the social networking platform Twitter to reach out to Indians in distress across the world. She personally responds to SOS calls from her Twitter handle and makes it a point to ensure relief measures are underway.

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Arun Jaitley, Minister for Finance, Corporate Affairs and Information & Broadcasting

This ultimate Delhi insider was given the onerous task of revving up a stagnant economy and delivering on the BJP's election plank of 'achche din'.

In the latter, he may have succeeded on the inflation front, helped by reduction in global crude oil prices over the past year, but the picture is far from perfect.

The Modi government and Jaitley's biggest achievements may be that they have managed to make the India growth story globally relevant again.


Rating agencies such as Moody's and S&P issued a more upbeat outlook for the economy recently. There is a renewed effort to spur industrial activity and attract global investment.

The government has worked to create political consensus on the passage of the landmark Goods and Services Tax Bill.

However, Jaitley and Modi are yet to deliver on the promise of an energised economy. The finance ministry has been unable to quell the fears of retroactive taxation.

The recent retroactive tax demands sent to large MNCs may have dampened investor sentiment. Lately, corporate India has voiced its disappointment at the slow pace of reforms and critics such as Arun Shourie, the influential former BJP minister, have called the government's economic policy "directionless" and found it lacking in the implementation department.

On black money, even supporters feel let down by the Modi government's perceived inaction.

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Nitin Gadkari, Minister for Road Transport and Highways/Shipping

Nitin Gadkari, a key player in the Modi government's efforts to build world-class infrastructure fast, is targeting road construction at the rate of 30 km/day in the next two years, up from 12 km/day now.

Gadkari, who is also charged with the execution of the Sagar Mala project to develop infrastructure along India's coastline, says he wants to contribute two per cent of GDP through the roads and ports sector.


In these efforts, he may come up against several odds, the biggest of which is the deadlock over the land acquisition bill. How the Modi government, and Gadkari as transport minister, negotiates with the Congress-led Opposition will determine the success of the ambitious infrastructure targets.

On a different note, Gadkari's work in the important infrastructure ministries he heads has been overshadowed by allegations of corruption levelled against him by the Opposition, which disrupted Parliament repeatedly over the issue in the just concluded Budget session.

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Manohar Parrikar, Minister for Defence

Manohar Parrikar, who was handpicked for the defence ministry by Modi six months back, had his task cut out for him.

Thanks to the indecisiveness and lack of leadership shown in the ministry under the previous UPA government, the military urgently needed new equipment and weaponry at the earliest to retain its fighting shape.

So desperate was the situation, Parrikar concluded, that India had would have to resort to some unconventional thinking to meet emergency needs.


According to reports, it was as a result of this assessment that Modi decided to buy 36 French Rafale jets outright through a government-to-government contract during his three-nation tour in April.

Not just on the Rafale jets, but on other issues which required urgent attention, too, Parikkar is believed to be quick on the uptake.

He has tried to speed up implementation of the 'one-rank-one-pension' scheme for retired defence personnel and given the go-ahead for aircraft and helicopters needed for the Army to be made in partnership with private Indian manufacturers as part of the Make in India initiative.

He has run into criticism from the Opposition for cutting down on the funding and the strength of the Mountain Strike Corps, but his supporters believe Parrikar knows what he is doing and may prove to be the best defence minister India has had in decades.

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Suresh Prabhu, Minister for Railways

Suresh Prabhu's first railway budget this year was hailed all around as a visionary document.

In a ministry where politics and its imperatives have dominated planning and implementation, Prabhu broke with tradition by not announcing a single new train.


What is more, the budget document focused on areas that required urgent attention -- bringing in a big dose of much needed investment (Rs 8.5 lakh crore over five years), expanding capacity, and putting the spotlight on passenger amenities.

Prabhu, who earlier won praise for his stint as power minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, it has been reported, is personally monitoring the implementation of his proposals.

As the first anniversary of the Modi government neared, the ministry announced that 39 proposals made by Prabhu in the Budget has been implemented in a mere 36 days.

If he keeps up this speed of work, Prabhu's performance could be key to how the Modi government's tenure is judged.

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Ravi Shankar Prasad, Minister for Communications and Information Technology

Ravi Shankar Prasad recently declared the 2G spectrum auction held in March, which earned the government over Rs 1 lakh core, the most successful so far.

While the government had no option but to follow the Supreme Court directive on conducting 2G spectrum auctions in the wake of the 2G scam during the UPA's tenure, that it took place in a smooth manner gave Prasad an opportunity for congratulating the Modi government just before its first anniversary.


The government and Prasad have also made the right noises on providing equal access to the internet for all in the net neutrality debate. How Prasad continues to articulate his government's view on this contentious issue is important and will be keenly watched.

The Congress already has the upper hand in the perception battle, with party vice president Rahul Gandhi accusing the government of handing over the internet to corporates.

That apart, the government and Prasad have continued to reiterate their commitment to the 'Digital India' initiative by which the government hopes to provide broadband connectivity to over 2,50,000 gram panchayats by 2016 and take internet to India's villages.

It remains to be seen how far Prasad delivers on implementation in this crucial ministry.

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Smriti Zubin Irani, Minister for Human Resources Development

Smriti Irani has been in the news for the wrong reasons from the time she assumed charge of this politically-significant portfolio.

A spate of controversial issues such as the scrapping of Delhi University's four-year undergraduate programme, the alleged 'saffronisation' of appointments to some top University posts and in bodies such as the Indian Council of Historical Research, and alleged interference in the working of autonomous higher education institutions such as IITs have hogged attention.


These issues, and others far too many to recount, have overshadowed any substantive work that may have happened under her charge in the HRD ministry.

In a reply given in Parliament recently, where she took on an array of criticism, Irani also spoke about her government's efforts to put in place a new education policy. She said the government was, for the first time, attempting to get responses from the grassroots on the type of education people want.

Separately, the government has also announced the five new IITs and IIMs, the building of which Irani will oversee as HRD minister.

But these and other issues, needing consultation and debate, have been drowned out by the cacophony of controversies that have followed Irani, some of her own making, others thrust on her by political foes.

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Dharmendra Pradhan, Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Petroleum and Natural Gas

First-time minister Dharmendra Pradhan has been lucky to get charge of a sector where Modi has undertaken some of his biggest subsidy rationalisation measures such as the deregulation of diesel prices and the roll-out of the direct benefit transfer for LPG.

It speaks of the PM's confidence in this politician from Orissa that he has been made the executioner of some of the government's most prominent reform initiatives during its first year in office.


He has lived up to expectations, delivering on measures such as the massive direct benefit transfers, but also fulfilling his brief on streamlining the working of public sector oil companies such as ONGC and increasing productivity internally.

According to reports, Pradhan has been monitoring ONGC's performance on a monthly basis. The company registered an increase in crude oil production in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2015, after seven consecutive years of falling production.

Pradhan has also been at the forefront of securing the interests of ONGC's overseas arm -- ONGC Videsh Limited abroad.

Another feather in his cap is the fact that the influence of large private sector energy giants in the corridors of the energy ministry and the policy-making process has been curbed significantly.

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Piyush Goyal, Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Power/Coal/New and Renewable Energy

Piyush Goyal was recently voted as the best performing minister in the Modi government by business leaders in a survey for Forbes India magazine, trumping even his political mentor, Jaitley, who came second.

There is reason for the high praise and thumbs up from India's business community.


Power, one of the key infrastructure ministries, was in need of dire attention when Goyal assumed office.

He said in a recent interview to The Economic Times that the sector was a state of "flux" with "no gas, no coal and accumulated banking non-performing assets" when he took charge.

At the end of the first year in office, which he describes as "satisfying and interesting", India's added a record 22,000 MW of installed capacity of power generation and the country's coal output also grew by 8.3 per cent.

He is now targeting the delivery of 24x7 power supply to all in the next five years. Going by his track record so far, the power sector is definitely a space to watch while assessing Modi government's performance.

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Nirmala Sitharaman, Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Commerce and Industry

Nirmala Sitharaman, the former BJP spokesperson who is never at a loss for words to defend her party and government, is believed to be a silent performer in the Modi government.

Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah and Jaitley all are believed to see her as a performing minister.


Evidence of this came when she accompanied Modi on his visit to Germany where the government sought to hard-sell 'Make in India', its flagship industrial revival initiative.

Sitharaman has also been in the forefront of negotiations over India's stand on food security at the World Trade Organisation.

After prolonged negotiations, the WTO had accepted India's demand on procuring and stocking cheap foodgrain for its food security programme in November last year without attracting action from other WTO members for breaching the subsidy cap specified by the body.

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