File photo. Photograph:( Reuters )
Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not buy into the logic of political seniority for picking the top four members of CCS
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s new Cabinet represents bold new ideas to run the country. It is best exemplified through the constitution of Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) which comprises Home, Defence, External Affairs and Finance Ministry.
Modi did not buy into the logic of political seniority for picking the top four members of CCS. The direct inductee, a former Foreign Secretary, S Jaishankar is the case in point.
He reflects Modi’s top concern of handling China and managing Indo-US relationship. Modi has put a micro manager at the helms of the affair as global politics is changing rapidly.
The Prime Minister promoted Nirmala Sitharaman and handed her Finance portfolio which requires a hands-on minister. Similarly, Amit Shah is a multi-tasker and de facto number two in the government. His elevation as the Home Minister was not a surprise but Modi has chosen him because, after ages, internal security and nationalism have become public issues and Modi would want robust handling of security matters in time to come.
The only political adjustment has been that of Rajnath Singh who has been shifted to Defence. The ministry does not need handling on a daily basis. It requires gentle guidance and thrust so that services can execute the national mandate. It is for this reason, he also remains number one minister in the order of precedence after Narendra Modi.
Rise and Rise of Nirmala Sitharaman
Her rise looks meteoritic, but she had caught Narendra Modi’s eye as a fiery spokesperson of BJP during UPA 2. Her entry into public life took place when she was made a member of NCW in 2003. She joined BJP in 2006 and went on to become one of the 6 spokespersons under the stewardship of Ravi Shankar Prasad when Nitin Gadkari was the party president. She has surpassed them all. Not only she was appointed a minister of state with independent charge for commerce in 2014 but went on to become the Defence Minister in 2017. She is not a mass leader but is one of those politicians, Prime Minister finds it easy to work with. She is a workaholic and keeps up with the razor-tight time table set by the Prime Minister.
After a long time, the Finance Ministry will have a hands-on minister. Her elevation as the Finance Minister has sealed her position in the party and government for a long time.
Less Noise and More work
This mantra underlines the making of the Cabinet. Despite being a giant killer, Smriti Irani was not given a heavyweight industry. She debuted as HRD minister in 2014 but had to be shunted to Textiles for the controversies generated by her. Same is the case with VK Singh who as MOS will have to report to Nitin Gadkari. In the previous dispensation, he had independent charge of Development of North Eastern Region General (DONER) and also looked after overseas affairs. He had the opportunity to travel to Yemen to evacuate Indians but today he only has one portfolio under his belt.
Continuity and Generational Shift
The Cabinet has been altered considerably but it doesn't mean that it does not have the element of continuity. Senior ministers like Ravi Shankar Prasad, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Hardeep Singh Puri, RK Singh, Jitendra Singh, Nitin Gadkari, Piyush Goyal, Dharmendra Pradhan and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi have retained their old portfolios. Though some have got additional responsibility, but it is an acknowledgement of their performance. Modi is perhaps the first Prime Minister after Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi who has successfully carried out a generational shift. Within five years, Modi has ensured that junior leaders like Nirmala Sitharaman, Smriti Irani, Prakash Javadekar, Dharmendra Pradhan, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Piyush Goyal become full-fledged Cabinet Minister. In fact, he has inducted fresh faces as MoS in the government and the example in such case is Anurag Thakur.
Modi’s Cabinet is free from the strain of coalition politics. He is the ultimate arbiter of the who gets to work with him and who does not. The only flip side of such arrangement is that contrary opinions become less prevalent and, in the long run, disappear as no one wants to be seen objecting to the supreme leader. I’m sure that this small limitation can be overcome by the new administration.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL.)