Modi’s mega cabinet reshuffle - GulfToday

Modi’s mega cabinet reshuffle

Narendra Modi

Narendra Modi

Political analysts in India are furiously decoding Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s major cabinet reshuffle and expansion, where he dropped 12 ministers, elevated seven and introduced 36 new faces even as he completed the second year of his second term in office. The ministerial strength was 53 and it had the capacity of up to 81 according to constitutional norms.

Before Wednesday’s Operation Change, many of the ministries were vacant, and some of the ministers were looking after more than one. Modi had earned the reputation of running a lean team. But he seems to have realised that he needs a full team to run the government effectively. The exercise also gave him a chance to provide a chance to fresh faces and to diversify the profile of the government.

Many of the 12 ministers who had to leave had been in the government in the first term from 2014 to 2019 and continued into the second term. It seemed fair that others should get a chance to be part of the government and prove their administrative skills. It has been observed that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) did not have enough bench strength. That is, they did not have enough number of members of parliament (MPs) with experience in government. It appears that the expansion which facilitated the entry of new members is meant to give exposure to a larger number of people in the party to work in the government.

Analysts have also interpreted the cabinet reshuffle as an exercise with an eye on the state assembly elections which are due to be held next year, especially in the prime minister’s home state Gujarat, and Uttar Pradesh, the largest state, and the state he represents in parliament. Many of the new members are from these two states.

There is also the caste, the peculiar India institutions of denoting social stratification with its deleterious impact on social cohesion and upward mobile movement, issue, and it has been noted that a large number of the new entrants come from what are known as Other Backward Classes (OBCs) as well as from the Scheduled Castes, the most discriminated and oppressed class.

And there are the Scheduled Tribes (STs) or the forest dwellers with culture and languages of their own. Holding together the Indian polity with such diversity is a gargantuan task, and one of the tests of a good leader of the country is to include all of them. Modi is not keen to emphasise the different castes because he is an ardent believer in national identity and national unity. But the imperatives of practical politics in India is such that the caste identities and caste interests have to be addressed. Modi shows the required skills to grapple with this challenge. His cabinet as it stands after the expansion reflects in a large measure the presence of OBCs, SCs, and STs.

The big talking point about the ministers who have been dropped is that they did not perform well, and Modi was conscious of the impact it had on the image of his government. The exit of health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan, a trained doctor from Delhi, is significant in the sense that the Modi government was in the line of fire for its mishandling of the second wave of COVID-19, which has been described as a tsunami, during which about 200,000 people had died and many others suffered because of the lack of hospital beds and oxygen supplies. It seemed necessary to show that the government is sensitive to the feelings of the people. But all this is speculation because neither Modi nor the ruling BJP have ever clarified the reasons behind the exit of the senior minister.

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