By Ashima Makhija
On 3 September, Prime Minister Narendra Modi undertook the biggest cabinet reshuffle since assuming office in 2014. Aimed at revamping the cabinet with merit and realpolitik, this cabinet reshuffle is expected to brace the Members of Parliament (MP) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) members for the fast-approaching state assembly elections as well as the extravagant 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Nine new ministers have been inducted into the ministry and half a dozen have resigned from their posts. The Prime Minister has adopted the power of four ‘P’s— Passion, Proficiency, Professional and political acumen for Progress as the basis of what is expected to be the final reshuffle of the Modi cabinet in this term.
The “who’s who” of politics
Among those who resigned are Skill Development Minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Minister Kalraj Mishra, Minister of State for Human Resource Development Mahendra Nath Pandey and junior Water Resources Minister Sanjeev Balyan. The new entrants, most of whom have joined as Ministers of State include Rajya Sabha MP from Uttar Pradesh Shiv Pratap Shukla, Lok Sabha MP from Buxar Ashwini Kumar Choubey, Lok Sabha MP from Tikamgah, Madhya Pradesh Virendra Kumar, Lok Sabha MP from Uttara Kannada Anantkumar Hegde, Lok Sabha MP from Arrah Raj Kumar Singh, former IFS officer Hardeep Puri, Lok Sabha MP from Jodhpur Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Lok Sabha MP from Baghpat and former IPS officer Satya Pal Singh and former IAS officer Alphons Kannanthanam.
Biggest winners of the lot
The key portfolios of Railways and Defence received “maximum speculation”. After former Railway Minister, Suresh Prabhu, accepted moral responsibility for a series of fatal train derailments, he was expected to be shifted to a new ministry. Before the final announcement this morning, party sources revealed that Power Minister Piyush Goyal, Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha were being seen among the “good performers” in the government, and could be elevated.
Nirmala Sitharaman emerged as the biggest gainer of the Cabinet reshuffle on Sunday as Prime Minister Modi gave her the heavyweight Defence portfolio, while Piyush Goyal replaced Suresh Prabhu in the Railway Ministry. Suresh Prabhu has been transferred to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. While there were speculations about Uma Bharti’s resignation, she has bagged the portfolio of Minister of Drinking Water and Sanitation. Her previous portfolio of Water Resources and Ganga Rejuvenation has been given to Nitin Gadkari.
BJP allies are missing in action
Although the BJP has spent the whole year delicately and diplomatically consolidating the support of its allies, no new ministers were inducted from crucial saffron allies like Janata Dal (United) [JD(U)] and Shiv Sena. IndiaToday reported that the Modi government had offered JD(U) two seats in its cabinet but Nitish Kumar was unhappy with the berths that his party was being. While JD-U leaders RCP Singh, who is the parliamentary party leader in the Rajya Sabha and Santosh Kumar were the probable picks for being inducted into the cabinet, the party was deeply upset with the fact that the BJP had initiated no direct communication with its Bihar ally. Failure to develop a formula for representation that could suit all the allies has led to the exclusion of JD(U) and Shiv Shena from the cabinet. The warring factions of AIADMK, which are suffering from the jolt of a rebellion by the T T V Dhinakaran-led section, have been excluded from the cabinet on account of their internal troubles, instability and evident inefficiency.
Strategy and the test of time
The swearing-in ceremony took place at 10 am Sunday morning, when President Ram Nath Kovind administered the oath of office at the Rashtrapati Bhawan. This is the final test for the Modi cabinet before 2019. The addition of four ex-bureaucrats into the Parliament underlines the Shah-Modi strategy to divert more ministers and party representatives to the upcoming elections in Gujarat, Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh and the re-election bid in 2019. Only time can reveal whether BJP’s bet will pay off and whether a new cabinet will succeed in amassing sufficient resources to support yet another saffron wave.
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