As compared to Dr. Manmohan Singh’s first jumbo cabinet of 79 ministers in 2004, Modi’s cabinet is slim and young. The attendance of the head of SAARC nations opened a new page for bilateral and regional relationship, peace, and economic development. Following are few observations on the new cabinet of ministers for gossips, until all portfolios are allocated.
Electoral politics: Large number of ministerial candidates from Maharashtra, Delhi, Haryana, Bihar, and Seemandhra clearly indicate Modi’s eyes are on the upcoming assembly elections in these states. Reshuffling of cabinet is inevitable by the end of year to adjust geographical representation from other states.
Unfair geographical representation: If Modi, as a Prime Minister, is truly considering himself a representative of the entire nation rather than his home state or parliamentary constituencies (Vadodara and Varansi), Gujarat should have representation in the cabinet. Gujarat does not have a single minister in the cabinet, despite the BJP having won 26 out of 26 seats in Gujarat. BJP is considering Gujarat and Rajasthan as secured belt for at least the next 10 years and thus easier to park them on side. On the other hand, the UP has been generously rewarded to sustain the surge and strengthen Amit Shah’s foothold as an outsider in the state. Further, Mulayam and Mayawati have potential to bounce back in UP while in Gujarat Congress is completely dismantled and may take at least decade to recover.
Women members: Seven women took oath as a part of Modi’s council of the ministers. As compared to outgoing cabinet of Manmohan Singh, it jumped from 10 to 15 per cent. Najma, Shushma, Uma and Maneka are veteran politicians while Smriti Irani, Harsimat Kaur, and Nirmala Sitharaman are relatively new entrants in administration. Except Uma Bharti, all are coming from privilege family background with education from elite institutions. Most of these new members have been either public face of the party or have had a career in media. For the senior women members, their most pertinent qualification appears to be rivalry against Sonia Gandhi. Sonia destroyed Najma Heptulla’s dream for becoming the president and that led her to quit Congress.
An Excellent list of Dropouts (Good control on Type II Error!): The impression of Modi’s master stroke is clear on the list of candidates kept out of the Cabinet. This includes Advani, Joshi, Subramanian Swami, Akbar, Shourie, Kiran Bedi, and Yeddyurappa. These intellectuals should know that Modi is a horse for a long race and they better start planning their retirements soon. Modi also kept Bollywood out and let them continue to use their creativity in Bollywood and mass gathering.
Swearing-in Ceremony: It was amazing to see politicians and leaders from across parties, keeping their political differences aside. Mulayam and Amit Shah were holding their hands while walking together! Of course, Rahul became matured and graciously attended the ceremony. Kejriwal was sadly missed but I am sure he must have penned a letter from the judiciary custody.