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Babus outwit Netas in Modi's Cabinet

Babus outwit Netas in Modis Cabinet
With a clear mandate to deliver on his much-publicised vision of a New India, Modi's understanding of that arithmetic would be more important than just chemistry in his Mission-2019. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Sunday, finally made the 'best' choices available to him from the talent pool comprising his colleagues with the expansion of his Cabinet. The most surprising move, however, was appointing Nirmala Sitaraman as the new Defence Minister of the country. Much on expected lines, while Piyush Goyal replaced Suresh Prabhu as new Minister for Railways, Prabhu has got the ministry of Commerce – earlier with the new Defence Minister. Among the new ministers sworn-in, former diplomat Hardeep Singh Puri, two former IAS officers Raj Kumar Singh and Alphons Kannanthanam and a former IPS officer Satya Pal Singh were able to make the cut. The selection of new ministers was based on four Ps, i.e. 'passion, proficiency, professional, and political acumen', thus reflecting Modi's faith in proficient bureaucrats to deliver on his goals rather than on politicians who are often untested in governance. The new batch of ministers is well-qualified, coming from diverse social and economic backgrounds, as well as from vast regions mapping the country. Even among others, Modi preferred leaders with commendable track-records. The track-records of Shiv Pratap Shukla (as a Cabinet Minister in Uttar Pradesh for eight years) and Ashwini Kumar Choubey (as a Cabinet Minister in Bihar for eight years) finally ensured places for them in the Modi Cabinet. The other factor considered was experience in Lok Sabha. While Tikamgarh MP Virendra Kumar has his sixth term as Lok Sabha MP from Tikamgah, Anantkumar Hegde is a fifth term Lok Sabha MP from Uttara Kannada district. Among the ministers having administrative experience in their different capacities –Raj Kumar Singh had served as Union Home Secretary, Hardeep Puri had served as Chairman of the Counter-Terrorism Committee of the UN as well as the President of the United Nations Security Council. Similarly, while Satya Pal has been the commissioner of police of Mumbai, Pune, and Nagpur – and is credited for breaking the backbone of organised crime syndicates in Mumbai in the 1990s, Alphons Kannanthanam hogged the headlines as Delhi's 'Demolition Man' when he was the commissioner of the Delhi Development Authority, having cleared DDA areas of encroachment removing around 15,000 illegal buildings – listing him in TIME Magazine's list of 100 Young Global Leaders in 1994. Among other ministers, Pradhan's rise appears to be due to his performance as a Minister of State of Petroleum and Natural Gas, which is spearheading Prime Minister Narendra Modi's pet scheme, 'Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana', of providing LPG connections. Dharmendra Pradhan (now promoted as Cabinet Minister) would also look after the ministry of skill development – earlier with Rajiv Pratap Rudi. Among the babus-turned-netas, Raj Kumar Singh would now hold the independent charge of the power ministry, which was earlier handled by Piyush Goyal – now promoted as the new railway minister and Hardeep Puri has been made the minister of State for Housing and Urban Affairs. While Satya Pal has become the State minister of HRD, with the additional charge of Ministry of State for water resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Kannanthanam has got tourism along with electronics and information technology as state minister with independent charge. However, the deadlock between the BJP and the JD (U) could not be unlocked as Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had reportedly sought one Cabinet berth and one minister of state while the BJP only agreed to give two junior minister berths. Kumar later expressed his disappointment over not getting any call from the PM regarding the restructuring of ministries. Despite the BJP saying that another expansion or reshuffle is already on the cards which would incorporate the other alliance parties of the NDA soon – this expansion has a clear message for the Bihar CM: BJP is now eying on Upper Caste votes of Bihar also – side-lined so far by Nitish, Lalu, and more or less Sushil Modi. While Raj Kumar Singh is a Rajput, Choubey is a Brahmin. Both these faces from Bihar have administrative experience and both come across as more than just politicians. We must not forget: BJP won 2014 Lok Sabha elections in Bihar on its own chemistry, but it was the arithmetic of Lalu and Nitish next year in the Assembly Elections, which outscored Modi's chemistry. Now Nitish with his side, Modi has expertise in the game of numbers. After all, politics is a game of arithmetic, indeed.

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