The Formula 1 race was revving up for its final lap even as the UPA government began to put in place its team for the last lap before the 2014 elections. And by all accounts, those who have been given steering positions by UPA president Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi are people who have the merit and stamina to get past the finishing line. The most commendable thing in this Cabinet reshuffle is that the PM has decided to draw on the talent he has within reach, and with inputs from Rahul Gandhi, given positions of depth and importance to younger ministers of state who until now have not been able to showcase their talent effectively. He has given Jyotiraditya Scindia independent charge as minister of state for power, a crucial ministry given the acute problems facing this sector, handed over the ministry of corporate affairs to Sachin Pilot and for debutant Manish Tewari, information and broadcasting, both as ministers of state with independent charge. These are young people who bring with them no baggage and whose credentials in the posts they have held earlier, ministers of state for the first two, have been impeccable.
The prime minister himself has said of his reshuffle that “it is a combination of youth and experience.” We have seen how the youth part has been taken care of. Making Salman Khurshid the minister for external affairs suggests that the PM is in no mood to listen to allegations against him by the likes of India Against Corruption activist Arvind Kejriwal and company and has shown his confidence in a minister whose track record has been untainted until recently.
The singular message that the PM and the UPA chairperson has put out is that the short time before the elections will be one during which the government will implement its agenda now that it has the team it really wants in place. It has done well to divest many ministers of dual portfolios, and in this way, it has ensured that it has a much leaner and, maybe, meaner, fighting machine come the elections. There, of course, will be Cassandras who will say that this is no more than a game of musical chairs. But, this would be to do a disservice to the considerable thought that seems to have gone into this reshuffle. The difference between the just concluded Formula 1 race and the race towards 2014 is that the latter has much more time for practice laps now with more agile people in the drivers’ seat.