The young must get into the saddle
Often during the UPA regime, when political reporters rued about not having any story, the bureau chief would say “why don’t you speak to one of the MoS?” The complaint of the junior ministers of not having work in hand had become one of the evergreen news stories of the ten-year regime.
The issue was not limited to just newspapers and television bulletins. Most would remember how on many occasions these junior ministers marched to 7 Race Course Road demanding “work” from the then Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh.
With the change of guard in May 2014, questions were raised about handing over some of the most crucial arms of governance into the hands of these Ministers of State, often referred to as the junior ministers. Some commented (with much confidence) that it was Narendra Modi’s style of not reposing faith in the senior lot while most others attributed it to the sheer lack of talent in this government.
In just two years, the perceptions, as well as the predictions, have been proved wrong. One may refer to any forum outlining the work done by the govt to see that the ministries entrusted to the junior ministers have performed the best so far. Their work is being recognised and appreciated not only in India but also by international agencies.
While Piyush Goyal, as the Minister in charge for all sources of energy and power has become a household name in these two years, his contemporary and friend Dharmendra Pradhan who takes care of the all-important Ministry of Petroleum has been working relentlessly to reform the sector. It is no mean achievement that Goyal is now MoS for Mines as well.
The responsibility has been invested in him to help bring more synergy with the Ministry of Power and to ensure that the pace of reforms in these areas does not slacken. While Goyal has to realise PM Modi’s goal of electricity in every Indian household under the rural electrification scheme, Pradhan has followed up the LPG reforms agenda with amazing results.
Their party senior and one of the most accessible, affable politicians today, Prakash Javadekar has earned his elevation to Cabinet rank after ensuring that the Ministry of Environment must function as a partner in India’s growth story and not be the cold storage for development projects. As HRD Minister, he now has to see our education system keeps up to the fast changing pace of the times including the challenges of an online bombardment of provocations.
His successor in Paryavaran Bhawan is Anil Madhav Dave whose life is dedicated to the cause of water, rivers, and environment. An RSS Pracharak, Dave is an avid traveller, author, pilot, and makes time to mentor youngsters in the course of social work. Dr. Jitender Singh, who holds charge of the low profile but significant DoPT has been quietly working to implement the administrative reforms so crucial for “minimum government”.
An Olympian, a retired Army officer and one of the silent workers of this government, Lt. Col. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore has been working independently for step-by-step implementation of the communication strategies of Narendra Modi even as his previous boss Arun Jaitley remained occupied with the challenges of the Finance Ministry.
One also needs to look at the present team of junior ministers who have joined the government recently and are preparing hard to face their first Parliament session. Arjun Meghwal, a former administrator, has been leading the BJP bench in Lok Sabha for quite some time in various capacities. Meghwal, a Dalit, is one of the most diligent parliamentarians today and has a vision for the upliftment of the backward segments. Kiren Rijiju is one of the brightest stars already.
A recent order has also outlined in unambiguous terms that every file which reaches the Cabinet Minister’s table must come through the MoS who looks after that particular department. This empowerment has taken many by surprise and become the latest buzz among the Babus of Lutyens Zone. Even within the Ministries, the government has taken care to assign specific areas of work to the Ministers of State.
For instance, both Vijay Goel and Sanjeev Balyan, are now MoS in Water Resources, River Development, and Ganga Rejuvenation but they have their roles clearly cut out. Ditto in the Rural Development Ministry, one of the strongest arms of the government for a Prime Minister who sees Gaon, Garib, Kisan, and Yuva as his focus audience.
To come back to the original point, the Minister of State is no more an “adjustment” post where people have to be accommodated only for their caste, regional, and religious identities. The MoS in the Modi govt is expected to drive the growth story as much as his senior minister and in many cases more actively.
It is merit which counts now and even as PM Modi ensures that all segments and sections of Indian society are adequately represented in his council, identities of caste and region may not be the only criterion. He has entrusted faith in his junior ministers and expects that them to rise up to it.
(The writer is Advisor, Prasar Bharati. The views expressed are strictly personal)