The President's office on Friday confirmed the names of ministers that will be making up the second Cabinet of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. While the list has some old and new faces, two names have stood out this time because of a particular distinction. Both Nirmala Sitharaman who has been named Finance Minister, and S Jaishankar who has been named Minister for External Affairs, are former students of Jawaharlal Nehru University.
After completing her bachelors in Seethalakshmi Ramaswamy College, Tiruchirappalli, Sitaraman came to Delhi to pursue a masters degree in Economics from JNU, one of the most reputed academic higher-education institutions in the country. The year was 1980 and it was during her tenure as a student in here that Sitharaman met Parakala Prabhakar, who went on to become her husband in 1986. Though Sitharaman herself leaned toward the BJP, Prabhakar's belonged to a Congress-loyalist family. However, the two continue to be together despite the political differences and have a daughter.
Sitharaman was inducted as junior minister (Minister of State, Commerce and Industry, with independent charge) in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 2014 cabinet before being elected as a member of Rajya Sabha from Andhra Pradesh in June. In 2016, she successfully fought for a Rajya Sabha seat from Karnataka and was one of the 12 candidates nominated by the BJP to contest the elections.
A staunch supporter of PM Modi and his policies in defence and security, Sitharaman has been an active face in national media over the past year, defending the government’s stance on the Rafale deal in Parliament and standing up to sexist remarks from Opposition leaders. A graduate in economics, Sitharaman received her master’s degree from Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, which is where she also met her husband.
Sitharaman also holds the distinction of being the only woman after Indira Gandhi to be Defence Minister and now Finance Minister.
The second JNU alumnus to be a part of the Modi cabinet is S Jaishankar, the former diplomat, Foreign Secretary and policy wonk who has been inducted into Modi cabinet 2.0 as the new EAM, succeeding the successful run of former EAM Sushma Swaraj. Jaishankar, who has grown up in Delhi, graduated first from St Stephens College and then moved on to JNU for higher studies. At the University, he first received a masters degree in Political Science, then followed it up with a PhD in International Relations in which he specialised in nuclear diplomacy.
Apart from his strong educational background in his related field, Jaishankar is also a multi-linguist who can speak fluently in Hindi, Tamil, English, Russian, Mandarin, Japanese and Hungarian.
after a brief stint as a journalist following his education at JNU, Jaishankar went on to join the Indian foreign Services in 1977. Since then, he has risen meteorically in office, bagging the position of foreign secretary in 2015. He is one of the few persons to get inducted into a cabinet without being either being a member of Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha. He will have to get elected to Lok Sabha within 6 months to hold on to his seat.
In 2016 after the student protests in JNU following a protest rally against the unconstitutional hanging of Afzal Guru, several leaders in the BJP slammed JNU as a "liberal" bastion. Several rumours about the institution were spread and fed to the media including information about illicit activities that allegedly go in the college. The then JNU Student Union president Kanhaiya Kumar among others was arrested for sedition in 2016 and tagged "tukde-tukde gang".