Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent cabinet rejig bears a clear reflection of BJP’s run-up into election 2019. However, it also divulges how closely he has been monitoring and evaluating the ministries and the ministers, both the state and the union, in his cabinet.
The cabinet rearrangement is highly significant in multiple ways. Inductees have been picked up wisely keeping in mind his ambitious vision for the New India 2022 and the other by-polls going to be held before 2019 in several politically important states including Uttar Pradesh, Himachal, Karnataka and Odisha.
Much has been said on the induction pattern of the nine new faces in the cabinet. Nine new ministers who have got space into PM cabinet include four former bureaucrats and Rajya Sabha MPs.
Modi’s dependency on the bureaucrats is not new but a replica of the model he strictly adhered to during his chief ministerial tenure in Gujarat state. He is quite popular for his reliance and trust on the ex-diplomats with the long term proven administrative skills who, he believes, can easily handle the government rope and can bring out the government from the present morass.
The four former civil servants have been given independent charges in the ministries of state. However, I am not fully convinced with the charges having been allotted to some of them. Hardeep Puri, who was retired as India’s representative to the United Nations, gets an independent charge of Urban and housing affairs ministry. Should that have been given to someone with expertise in smart cities and housing affairs like K J Alphons aka Alphons Kannanthanam, and Hardeep Puri should have been allowed to use his world affairs knowledge and skills in strategic affairs.
I find no reason to why Alphons, the former IAS officer, has been given the tourism department. Alphons once was famous as Delhi’s demolition man when he ordered to demolish several illegal buildings in Delhi.
He hogged headlines for his activism and anti-corruption policies in IAS service. Indeed he is not an MP but got a berth in MoS, and it is a sending out loud and clear messages. This should be viewed in the backdrop of BJP’s efforts to expand base in Kerala. Two, it has put an end to the long-term speculation over the state’s representative in the cabinet. Also, he is the lone Christian face in the cabinet from the state.
Raj Kumar Singh from Arrah district in Bihar is a lawmaker with more than four decades administrative work experience. He is a former home secretary and gets an independent charge of power and renewable energy sources ministry, vacated by Piyush Goyal. It’s quite interesting to know that he is the same man who was assigned the task of arresting the senior BJP leader L K Advani, under the then Chief minister regime of Lalu Prasad Yadav, during his Rath Yatra from Somnath to Ayodhya. Another ex-bureaucrat Satya Pal Singh, a former Police Commissioner of Mumbai is a new minister of state in HRD and water resources department.
The choice of new inductees also complies with the caste-religion equations that are essential to be maintained in a secular democracy. With choosing three Brahmin faces, two Rajputs, one Christian, one Dalit and one Sikh, it was a well balanced and calculative restructuring of the cabinet.
Obviously, Nirmala Sitharaman was the top gainer who has been elevated to the cabinet rank. Giving the defence ministry to Sitharaman was an out of box decision and it was for the first time a lady given this key portfolio after Indira Gandhi who managed the defence ministry once. It is a welcome decision and I am glad that an approachable and honest lady politician like Nirmala Sitharaman got rewarded. I see this as a sign of gender equality and women empowerment which received the boost. But till the time women reservation bill passed in the parliament gender equality and empowerment to women will be a work in progress.
Let us take a look at the groupings of the junior ministers in the minister of state category. Anant Kumar Hegde, eight-time Rajya Sabha MP from Karnataka state is a choice mooted with political intentions keeping in mind the upcoming state polls next year.
BJP kept loyal to RSS by induction of Hegde who is a close aid of the RSS. Ashwini Chowbey, senior leader from Bihar, got a junior minister rank in the cabinet. Shiv Pratap Shukla, four-time Rajya Sabha MP from Gorakhpur, gets finance department, an old rival of UP CM Yogi Adityanath who was imprisoned during emergency under MESA. Rajasthan gets Gajendra Singh Shekhawat hailing from home turf of senior Congress leader Ashok Gehlot.
The ruling BJP government has great performers which include Arun Jaitley, Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj, Nitin Gadkari, Nirmala Sitharaman, Smriti Irani, Dharmendra Pradhan and Piyush Goyal. This team is the face of Modi government.
The recent reshuffle has also exposed the underperformers, be it Rajeev Pratap Rudy or Uma Bharti for lackluster work. Some of the light weight lifters have been shown the door while others have been ruthlessly demoted from their respective ministries.
Overall, PM Modi has now made a good compact team still that mesmeric ingredients were missing and BJP needs to spread its political canvass enough for accommodating an array of talents. This team can surely win 2019 election for building New India 2022 but yet to say on account of delivery and governance.