Leaner, meaner: so walk the talk
Now that the star-studded ceremony that crowned Narendra Modi the 15th Prime Minister of Republic of India is finally over, a look at the slimmer and ‘smarter’ cabinet that is Team Modi is certainly due. Though the portfolios are not officially out yet, the preliminary reports have confirmed a cabinet that is almost half in size as the former government. Carrying on with his tried and tested method of convergence in governance, Modi has once again shown his preference for clusters of ministries in lieu of spread out and flabbier portfolios. The new prime minister has more or less orchestrated not just a cabinet configuration that is markedly different from the previous regime, but also a brilliant diplomatic coup, with a pantheon of South Asian premiers bearing witness to this epochal event. Paradigm shifts are already underway, even though the speculations on allocation of ministries remain unconfirmed. However, since Verdict2014 was a mandate for smart governance and growth, the new composition of the union cabinet reflects the change that is blowing in the wind. Far above and beyond a routine procedure, Modi’s ‘event management’ skills ensured that the oath-taking ceremony became a show of strength, and the ministers who were sworn in on Monday evening in the splendid forecourt of Rashtraparti Bhavan were in fact a fine balance of calibre, experience, seniority and representation. Moreover, the focus on effective communication through official website and social media platforms remains intact, with every little detail of the PM and the ministers’ itinerary being diligently posted, thereby laying the foundation of a new era of transparency and accountability.
The big four ministries – namely, home, finance, external affairs and defence – are shared between the top brass of the Bharatiya Janata Party. Rajnath Singh, the astute politician, is certainly a good choice to preside over home affairs, given his rapport across the party divides. Arun Jaitley, despite his defeat in the Lok Sabha polls from the Amritsar seat, rightfully deserves the finance ministry, while Sushma Swaraj, given her long years in politics, would do well as the in-charge of external affairs. The uncertainty over defence ministry, a major sector with enormous domestic and international implications, although clouds the otherwise well-lit firmament of Modi cabinet, and keeping the portfolio under Jaitley’s supervision seems like an attempt to whitewash the fact that the prime minister is keen on keeping the defence ministry directly under his control. There seems to be some lip-service to the ideals of inclusivity in the allocation of minority affairs to Najma Heptulla, also the oldest cabinet minister. On the other hand, promoting Smriti Irani as the human resource and development minister, with cabinet rank, is a pat on the back of a hard-working comrade, who was singlehandedly responsible for making a huge dent into Rahul Gandhi’s vote-share in his home turf Amethi. However, the choice of granting the crucial but not disconnected ministries, those of information & broadcasting and environment, to Prakash Javadekar appears ham-handed, given Nirmala Sitharaman (independent charge of commerce ministry) was an ideal candidate. Quibbling aside, let us hope that Modi cabinet also walks the talk.