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Home / Columns / Narendra Modi’s second innings won’t be easy | Opinion

Narendra Modi’s second innings won’t be easy | Opinion

He needs committed and capable colleagues to support him in realising his vision for India

columns Updated: Jun 03, 2019 07:48 IST
Shashi Shekhar
Shashi Shekhar
Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures after taking oath as the Prime Minister of India for second term, at the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan, in New Delhi, on May 30, 2019.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures after taking oath as the Prime Minister of India for second term, at the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan, in New Delhi, on May 30, 2019. (Ajay Aggarwal/HT PHOTO)

When Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi unveiled his new Cabinet, people ranging from punters to political bystanders were variously surprised and thrilled. Some saw their predictions come true. The biggest difference between the Modi-1 and Modi-2 governments is that two senior faces are missing from the latter. Arun Jaitley, who was a troubleshooter for Modi in New Delhi for years, had already written to the PM citing ill-health as the reason for his staying out of the Cabinet. Sushma Swaraj too had not contested election from Vidisha due to ill health. At the oath ceremony, the presence of Subramanyam Jaishankar, former foreign secretary, was confirmation of her exit. His expertise in foreign policy makes him a good fit for the job of foreign minister.

However, the absence of some important names surprised everyone. JP Nadda, Suresh Prabhu, Radha Mohan Singh, Rajyavardhan Rathore, Jayant Sinha, Mahesh Sharma and Anupriya Patel were surprise omissions. After Amit Shah’s inclusion in the new Cabinet, it is clear that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will now have to look for a new president. Until now, the party has followed a principle of one person, one post. Four states will be holding assembly elections in the next few months. In such a situation, will Amit Shah be given dual responsibilities or will the party soon appoint a new president? JP Nadda, the frontrunner, belongs to Himachal Pradesh but was educated in Bihar. Bihar is the most politically sensitive state and with the Lok Sabha election results, the BJP-Janata Dal United (JDU) coalition has got an astounding mandate. In this context, Nadda’s candidature makes sense, but the party has many faces like Bhupender Yadav who have proved their worth on many fronts.

Nitish Kumar is proving true to type with his 11th hour decision that the JDU will not join the Cabinet. He feels that his party has the right to claim more seats and that a single ministerial post is not enough. Nitish Kumar’s relations with the BJP have always been tenuous and within a week after the election results, these seem to be in troubled waters. Ram Vilas Paswan was also among those who took oath during the swearing-in ceremony. He had not contested, but wanted his son, Chirag Paswan also to be included in the Cabinet, but this has not happened.

Anupriya Patel of Apna Dal wasn’t invited to join the Cabinet. If you see the JDU, Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and Apna Dal together as being in one category, you will find that though Modi wants to take everyone along, he is averse to giving in to pressure. If the Shiv Sena has got only one seat, then why should the JDU be given more? In the same manner, in the pre-election deal, the LJP was assured a ministerial post and Rajya Sabha membership for Ram Vilas Paswan. Anupriya Patel was upset even before the elections.

All of them have now got a clear message.

Now we come to the most important entry in the Cabinet and that is Amit Shah. In the last few months, political circles were abuzz with the news that Amit Shah would join the Cabinet as home minister or finance minister. Some people even claim that in 2024 he will be a prime ministerial candidate. Shah has been a minister in the Gujarat Cabinet for a long time and held a number of portfolios. Now that he has taken charge of the home ministry, he has many challenges like the Kashmir situation, the Ram Mandir issue and Articles 370 and 35A, among others to deal with.

Former Karnataka chief minister Sadananda Gowda has also been given importance in the new Cabinet. He took oath after Nitin Gadkari and before Nirmala Sitharaman. There are two reasons for this. First, the BJP has performed very well in Karnataka and managed to get 25 seats. Through Gowda, Modi wants to convey to the people of Karnataka that he is with them. And with that, he is now focusing on winning the south. That’s why Nirmala Sitaraman was given finance. Rajnath was given defence, which is as important as home.

Here it’s important to mention three names. The first is Smriti Irani. It was not easy to defeat Rahul Gandhi in Amethi. And it was certain that she would be rewarded for that. In the same manner, by giving Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank and Arjun Munda space in the Cabinet, the PM has done a good job. These two have not only been chief ministers of their states but also have grassroots experience.

It’s clear that Modi has shown foresight and vision in putting together the Cabinet. It suggests that he has a succession plan. The new roles given to Shah and Sitharaman indicate this. He knows the second innings is more difficult than the first, and to execute it successfully, he needs capable colleagues.

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan
The views expressed are personal
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