Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Monday the planned reshuffle of his Cabinet was “not a change but an expansion” aimed to push the priorities identified in the 2016-17 national budget.
Modi described the reshuffle as a routine exercise but refrained from going into details of the changes. The Cabinet expansion comes around the same time the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is considering rejigging its office bearers, and it is expected some of the ministers might be assigned party duty.
“We need more people in the Cabinet to operationalise the priority areas identified in this year’s budget… Rest you will have to wait for tomorrow to unfold,” Modi told a select group of journalists at his 7 Race Course Road residence.
The government placed emphasis on the social and rural sectors in this year’s budget, promising to double farm incomes in just over five years, a tough target that would mean the sector growing faster than the rest of the economy at the current clip.
Modi did not give a direct reply when asked if Uttar Pradesh would find more representation in the government, only saying the BJP did not get enough seats in Delhi assembly elections whereas the northern state had elected 73 MPs of the National Democratic Alliance.
In what was a free-wheeling, hour-long interaction, the PM, dressed in a pink kurta and chappals, spoke on governance, the economy, terrorism, and his relationship with the opposition Congress.
The government has been seeking to expand support among political parties for the GST bill and the PM said he was hopeful of winning parliamentary approval for it in the monsoon session starting July 18.
Asked about the controversy over a new methodology to calculate India’s economic growth, Modi said: “The World Bank, IMF and all the top credit ratings agencies are saying that India is the fastest growing economy among the big countries.”
“Agar apko meri nahin sunni, unki toh suno (If you don’t want to listen to me then at least listen to them).” He said his administration was focused on minimum government, maximum governance and gave the example of how movement of Cabinet notes and government files had improved.
“Earlier, it used to take three months for a cabinet note to be made and circulated. Now the entire exercise is completed between 15 (and) 30 days,” he said.
“The government files, if one uses Hindu mythology as an example, would visit not mandatory char (four) dhams (pilgrimage) but 20 dhams before being approved.
“Now files are expedited and the government had stopped functioning in silos unlike the past.”