The Congress party said on Tuesday the latest additions are not just politically expedient and lacklustre but contrary to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s own promise of “minimum government, maximum governance” after he expanded his council of ministers.
With 27 ministers in the cabinet and over 50 others, Modi’s team is no longer the smallest in this millennium as it was until Tuesday morning. Experts, however, say it is the working of the ministries and not the number of ministers that will determine how well the government functions.
Speaking to journalists on Monday, Modi had said the expansion of the council would be aimed at the thrust areas of the budget. The PM said his government had implemented maximum governance by significantly improving India’s ease of doing business rankings.
It also cut down the time taken for presenting proposals before the cabinet from three months to about two weeks, reduced the number of ministries a file has to move around in and ensuring government departments did not “work in silos.”
The Congress said the expansion – in which the government added 14 junior ministers – flies in the face of those claims. “The gigantic council of ministers is much bigger than the one Dr Manmohan Singh headed which Modi used to mock,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala told Hindustan Times.
“First casualty of this expansion is Modi’s slogan of minimum government and maximum governance,” he added.
Even with a comfortable majority in the Lok Sabha, the BJP faces electoral tests in the states every now and then that determine the course of such exercises.
“How you rationalise the ministries is more important than the number of ministers you have,” MR Madhavan, president of PRS Legislative Research, said.
“By placing the same minister (Piyush Goyal) in charge of power and coal, the Modi government increased efficiency in the energy sector by reducing the chances of turf wars between different ministers,” he said.
But, the government needs to integrate more ministries for better governance, he added.
Political analyst Abhay Dubey of the Centre for Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) said the previous government came to be associated with phrases like ‘governance deficit and policy paralysis’ which Modi effectively replaced with ‘minimum government and maximum governance.’
“Whether this expansion will really focus on budget thrust areas will depend on the work allocation to the new ministers and what they deliver. But, the big message from today is that Modi has decided to go ahead with the same team that he started out with,” Dubey added.