Mr Pickles ran the successful Crewe and Nantwich by-election
Eric Pickles is to become Conservative Party chairman in David Cameron's reshuffle of his front bench team.
Mr Pickles, who had been shadow communities secretary, swaps roles with Caroline Spelman while Chris Grayling is promoted to shadow home secretary.
Mr Cameron has already announced he is bringing former chancellor Ken Clarke back as shadow business secretary.
The Tory leader said the changes announced would combine "fresh thinking with experience".
Mr Grayling is being moved from work and pensions, where he will be replaced by Theresa May.
Alan Duncan, who lost his shadow business post when Mr Clarke was recalled to the front bench after a 12-year absence, will replace her as shadow Commons leader.
Dominic Grieve, a barrister, will become shadow justice secretary - BBC political correspondent Jo Coburn said she had been told he was very happy with the move, which would suit his talents better.
He became shadow home secretary last year when David Davis gave up the post to fight a by-election on the issue of civil liberties in protest at the government's handling of the vote on extending detention of terror suspects.
Mr Davis told the BBC that he was not offered a job in the reshuffle and would not have expected to have been asked.
Mr Grieve replaces Nick Herbert as shadow justice secretary. Mr Herbert becomes shadow environment secretary, replacing Peter Ainsworth, who leaves the shadow cabinet.
Shadow foreign secretary William Hague, shadow chancellor George Osborne and shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley are among those remaining in their current posts.
And the position of shadow Europe minister, retained by eurosceptic MP Mark Francois, has been elevated to a shadow cabinet post.
Mr Pickles, who is popular with grassroots Tories, ran the party's successful Crewe and Nantwich by-election campaign.
Ms Spelman had found herself at the centre of a row over the use of expenses to pay her nanny - for which she is being investigated by Parliament's standards watchdog.
Announcing the changes, Mr Cameron said he now had the "strongest possible shadow cabinet" ready for a general election.
"With Ken Clarke's arrival, we now have the best economic team," he said.
"With the other changes I have made today, we have combined fresh thinking with experience, hope and change with stability and common sense."
Changes among junior shadow ministers include Richard Benyon becoming a shadow environment minister, Crispin Blunt being made shadow security minister and David Evennett moving to innovation and skills.
Justine Greening moved to local government, Greg Hands became a shadow Treasury minister and John Penrose moved to be a shadow business minister. Bill Wiggin and Robert Wilson moved to the Whips' Office.