A well-thought political, administrative exercise
While it may come as relief to some ministers like Arun Jaitley some of his ministerial colleagues may have reasons to be anxious as Modi is said to be unhappy with the functioning of some ministries.india Updated: Nov 10, 2014 01:04 IST
As the swearing-in ceremony at the Durbar Hall of the Rashtrapati Bhavan ended, newly inducted ministers had many stories of despair and triumph to share.
On Saturday, as he got the official communication about his induction into Narendra Modi Cabinet, Ch Birender Singh rushed to ferret out a similar letter that he got in June 2013.
“I compared the two letters. I had gone to Sonia Gandhi to ask why I was dropped at the last moment. Was I not loyal? Was there any allegation? There was nothing. She had nothing to say,” said Singh. A few metres away from Singh, a senior minister was crediting Modi for making a former plumber (Vijay Sampla) a minister.
These individual stories presented a rather colourful picture of what was essentially a well thought out political and administrative exercise.
With the numerical strength of the council of ministers reaching 66, Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi was quick to tweet how Modi’s ‘minimum government, maximum governance’ motto was “more hype, less substance” as the UPA had started with the “same number”.
He also criticised Modi for inducting Giriraj Singh, calling it a “crisp slap” to “secularism and inclusion”. His barb was apparently in reference to Singh’s controversial remarks that those opposing Modi have a place in Pakistan, and not in India.
The opposition’s barbs apart, Sunday’s exercise did reflect a conscious attempt on the PM’s part to ensure more representation to some regions in the Union government — especially from states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh where the BJP is looking to replicate its Lok Sabha performance in Assembly polls.
In this context, Modi has targeted influential electoral groups — a Bhumihar, a Yadav and two Thakurs from Bihar, a Dalit from Punjab, and a Muslim, an OBC, a Dalit and a Brahmin from UP. Faced with the dearth of bench strength in the BJP, the prime minister brought in ministers from the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government — including Suresh Prabhu, Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Bandaru Dattatreya and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.
As portfolio allocation was yet to be declared till late in the evening, many ministers were jittery.
While it may come as relief to some ministers like Arun Jaitley — who was overburdened with two heavy portfolios never kept by any one minister in the past — some of his ministerial colleagues may have reasons to be anxious as Modi is said to be unhappy with the functioning of some ministries. The PM is known to put a premium on ministers’ performance and it is likely to be reflected in the re-allocation of portfolios.
While the first-term MPs, who are donning ministerial hats now, will be hard-pressed to justify the trust the PM has reposed in them, the burden of expectations would be more on veterans like Manohar Parrikar who was in the reckoning for a national role for long.
Minutes before taking oath as a minister, Babul Supriyo was jocularly asked whether he would find music in the oath as well. “Pehle naukri mil jaye, phir gayenge (Let me get the job first; then I will sing),” he said.
The wait was soon over for Supriyo and many others.
Only time will tell how many of them are able to sing in their new avatar.