Six months into office, the Narendra Modi-led NDA government has effected its first cabinet expansion. While there have been some worthy inclusions, there also have been some uncalled transfers. The new list of ministers also have some dubious names, but then, that is how government’s function and more importantly cabinet expansions are not only limited to ensuring better administration of the country, they are also legitimate tools for appeasement politics too.
If we happen to look at the names that have been included names of Manohar Parrikar and Suresh Prabhu definitely do stand out. While the former has been handed the defence portfolio, the latter has been given railways. They undeniably will work in the best interests of the nation but their inclusion also is reminiscent of the old adage- more than meets the eye. Parrikar, who became the chief minister of Goa after the Digambar Kamat led Congress government, became a victim of anti-incumbency and poor administration was leading the state with utmost efficiency and may have done just that in the days to come.
While defence certainly needed an honest and clean politician, BJP certainly had no dearth of MP’s to choose from. On the other hand, Prabhu, who is a defector from Shiv Sena apparently, left his party on grounds of no decision being taken for a ministerial berth in the present government. But on what grounds was Dr Harsh Vardhan removed from the health ministry and allotted a much more insignificant office of science and technology and what novelty will Jagat Prakash Nadda bring to the office of the Union health minister?
Nadda is not a doctor but the only qualification that he can boast about, is his past with RSS. But should we then deduce that Dr Harsh Vardhan is being projected as the Delhi CM candidate? Clearly, he might be demoted to state politics and maybe the Central government thinks otherwise in utilising his experience as a medical doctor for the benefit of the health ministry. Similarly, it will become interesting if the Narendra Modi government will consider it prudent to give answers as far as Sadananda Gowda’s transfer from the Railway ministry to the Law ministry is concerned. Ostensibly both the ministers had been in office for a mere six months and none of the initiatives taken by them could have become tantamount for this swift change of offices.
There are two more instances which need ample speculation- firstly, Arun Jaitley being handed the information and broadcasting ministry and secondly Nawada MP Giriraj Singh, being given a ministerial berth. Prior to the cabinet expansion there was a lot of hue and cry in the national media as to how Mr Jaitley was overworked and he should be offloaded with the defence portfolio. In hindsight however, the NDA government does not share a very amicable relationship with the English media but Jaitley, when the NDA was in the opposition was one of the few senior party leaders who used to vent his ire on national issues albeit with his suave and carefully selected English words.
Nobody can deny that Narendra Modi has played a masterstroke by handing the affairs of the media to a man who exudes charm as well as knowledge. He is expected to further deny the negligible autonomy which the media has in India. On the other hand Giriraj Singh has never had clean antecedents. His Pakistan comments had caused Modi some visible consternation in the run up to the polls and his name was further dragged into a disproportionate assets kind of controversy later. The only question that the PM needs to now answer is: Is Singh’s inclusion oblivious to the 10 year moratorium call by Modi? The government should and must answer that.