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From trot to steady canter: BJP's balancing act

comment Updated: Nov 10, 2014 21:25 IST
Hindustan Times
Cabinet reshuffle

It is a fine balancing act that the BJP has undertaken in adding to its Council of Ministers. But the overriding sentiment is that while regional and caste considerations have been taken into account, there can be no slackers in this government.

In fact, some of those brought in seem to have been specifically to energise ministries which have been punching well below their weight. And the one which comes to mind at once is the defence ministry, which had been on auto pilot for years during UPA 2.

The talented Arun Jaitley can now focus on his core competence of finance, now that former Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar is at the helm of defence.

Mr Jaitley, however, still holds three portfolios, which means that he really has his work cut out for him. The UPA defence minister had made a virtue of inaction in the ministry, as a result of which not only did the Indian Army run short on spares, it also lost out on cutting edge technology in weaponry.

Many deals fell through, with the minister displaying a penchant for cancelling them on grounds of impropriety. While not to suggest that any impropriety should be tolerated, it is clear that things were not managed professionally in the ministry.

The other ministry which will benefit from a senior person known for his performance is the railways under newly-minted BJP leader Suresh Prabhu. He has a reputation not just for hard work but also honesty. The upgrade of the railways, bullet trains included, has been a pet project of Prime Minister Narendra Modi ever since he took over.

The removal of a competent minister like Harshvardhan from the health ministry can possibly be explained by the fact that the party may be looking to him to provide direction in the Delhi elections. The fact that Mr Modi has included technocrats like Jayant Sinha as the minister of state for finance suggests that the big push for economic revival is about to gather steam now. Without this, the functioning of the government will be stymied.

However, what Mr Modi must impress upon some of his ministers is that their conduct in their own pocketboroughs has no place in the Central government. For example, Giriraj Singh, now minister of state for micro, small and medium enterprises has in the past made blatantly communal remarks as has Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti.

Now this may have gone unchallenged in their pockets of influence, but given the prime minister’s inclusive vision, such views cannot be aired under any circumstances. There are very great expectations from the Modi government. The stage is now set to begin delivering on them.