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Cabinet reshuffle: Young MPs waiting in the wings. Will PM give them a chance?

Several relatively younger MPs are waiting in the wings for their turn to lead ministries and prove their administrative skills.

india Updated: Sep 01, 2017 19:59 IST
Smriti Kak Ramachandran
Prime Minister Narendra Modi (left) and BJP president Amit Shah (centre) have gently nudged out old  guards like LK Advani, giving them roles of  mentors to the party.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi (left) and BJP president Amit Shah (centre) have gently nudged out old guards like LK Advani, giving them roles of mentors to the party. (PTI file photo)

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi rejigs his council of ministers, it could provide the last opportunity for several young turks of the ruling BJP to prove their administrative skills in the run-up to the general elections in 2019.

Modi’s BJP prides itself as a government of the young which has closed the ministerial doors on anyone above 75.

The BJP also tops the list of parties in Parliament which has the highest number of MPs under 40.

Waiting in the wings are young leaders who have proved their acumen as parliamentarians or electoral giant-killers -- former BJP youth wing president Anurag Thakur, Nishikant Dubey, who has been impressive with forceful interventions in Parliament, Karnataka journalist-turned-politician Pratap Simha, son of Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje Dushyant Singh and Varun Gandhi.

Other claimants for ministerial berths also include Maharashtra MP Poonam Mahajan who replaced Thakur as the youth wing chief, Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh’s son Abhishek Singh and Heena Gavit, a doctor who defeated Congress veteran Manikrao Gavit.

Modi and party president have a problem of plenty and their dilemma, if any, will be on whether to pick youth over experience.

Several states go to the polls this year and in 2018, and the party will be keen to avoid any controversy.

After the landslide victory in 2014, the Modi-Shah power axis stunned many with their decision not to induct anyone over 75 years in the then leaner cabinet. The move was hailed as a masterstroke to give the younger lot a platform to perform and a snub to the old guard.

The ‘margdarshak mandal’ that the old guard was relegated to, was perceived as forced retirement for the 75 plus.

While murmurs of protests began to gain strength, a former Union minister and party strongman Yashwant Sinha took a dig at the leadership, for declaring leaders above 75 as “brain dead”.

Shah, however, underlined recently that the cut off age does not apply to contesting polls.

While picking a younger lot that included Smriti Irani, Olympian and former army man Rajyavardhan Rathore, Jayant Sinha and Piyush Goyal, the BJP brass earned the ire of stalwarts including LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Lalji Tandon who had aspired for cabinet berths after the party’s return to the Centre after a decade.

Both the BJP and its ideological mentor, the RSS, have articulated their stand of picking age over experience. The RSS leadership too favours giving the younger ones a chance.

A party leader, however, pointed out that age alone will not be a factor for shortlisting candidates for a ministerial berth.

“Among those who resigned on Thursday are Rajiv Pratap Rudy and Sanjeev Balyan, both of whom are counted among the younger lot,” the leader said on condition of anonymity.

“Who gets picked will depend on among other things the social engineering model that the party has been following to woo those traditionally did not vote for us and also with an eye on the upcoming polls,” the leader added.