The country’s 15th Prime Minister Narendra Modi, after deciding his council of ministers, has assigned them portfolios. The list is refreshing in two aspects: Good participation of women and slim size of the Cabinet as well as the whole council. However, it is not as radically different as the expectation generated from the message that Modi would “club like-minded departments in the ministry formation” had been. Transport, for example, still does not come under one ministry, with railways and civil aviation remaining separate.
Prime Minister Modi will additionally hold Ministries of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, Department of Atomic Energy, Department of Space and all important policy issues and other portfolios not allocated to any minister.
Rajnath Singh gets home as was being speculated in the media for two days before the swearing-in ceremony. So, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which leads the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) Government despite gaining a majority on its own, has to look for a new president. Sushma Swaraj, with all her acts of sulking during the election campaign, has expectedly been accommodated, though not in a ministry she is known to have a fascination for. Arun Jaitley is in the Cabinet despite his defeat from the Lok Sabha constituency of Amritsar.
With M Venkaiah Naidu and Nitin Gadkari getting Cabinet berths, it is clear they are not returning to the party to fill the vacancy created by Rajnath Singh’s appointment as the home minister. As Ananth Kumar gets a Cabinet rank, too, D-4, the pejorative reference to LK Advani’s coterie of Swaraj, Jaitley, Naidu and the leader from Bengaluru, their separation from the party patriarch is complete.
The prime minister is trying to figure out where veterans Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi could fit in. As they are older than Modi by decades, it was considered inappropriate (by RSS tradition) that they be made to report to him as his ministers.
An MP who really deserved the portfolio she has got is Uma Bharti. Her movement Samagra Ganga Abhiyan predates her re-entry into the BJP. She will look after water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation. Her past animus for Modi must have given way to bonhomie.
After recent governments gave railways to some minister from Bengal or Bihar, Karnataka gets the ministry with DV Sadananda Gowda appointed for the job. One may now hear announcements of trains to and from his State on already overcrowded tracks, as it happened in the case of Bengal and Bihar under the previous regimes, every February through the Rail Budget, if not the conventional attitude of handling this ministry changes.
The portfolios assigned to Najma Heptulla and Maneka Gandhi raise the question whether a Muslim alone can think about minority welfare and if the Women and Child Development Ministry must, by default, be headed by a woman. To that extent, Minister of State (MoS) Nirmala Sitharaman in the Commerce and Industry Ministry with independent charge and as MoS, Finance Corporate Affairs, impresses.
Along with this lady, television will miss two other persuasive spokespersons of the BJP: Ravi Shankar Prasad and Piyush Goyal. The latter was perhaps considered too young for finance; so he gets commerce. Prakash Javadekar was, anyway, more of an organisation person even when he also played the role of a party spokesman so far.
The BJP has tried to keep ally Shiv Sena (SS) in good humour not by giving it as many ministries as it had demanded, but by accommodating Anant Geete, and moving its own Gopinath Munde to the Cabinet so that there is no power tussle involving him and Sena aspirants in Maharashtra.
Allies Lok Janshakti Party, Shiromani Akali Dal and Telugu Desam Party have got one Cabinet berth each: Ram Vilas Paswan, Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Ashok Gajapathi Raju respectively. The SS reportedly wanted at least five of its MPs to be ‘honoured’ and are disappointed by what the party has got from the self-sufficient BJP.
Dr Harsh Vardhan has expectedly got health. The Delhi unit of the BJP has yet to decide whether it would have a new president or drag the doctor back from Parliament to project him again as the party’s chief ministerial candidate when Assembly elections happen in the capital later this year.
Since last evening, social media has been debating the curious choice of Smriti Irani as the Human Resource Development Minister not only because she is barely Class XII pass, but also because she never showed any inclination towards, let alone flair for, working on the state of education in the country.
Among the other high profile recruits, Gen (Retd) VK Singh has not been given defence perhaps to avoid confrontation with the ministry and some of his former colleagues, as he was at loggerheads with when the government was of the Indian National Congress (INC) and he had also raised the issue of corruption in defence equipment purchase. With his posting in various parts of the country as an Army officer, he will still prove an asset in development of the Northeast. Importantly, he has seen action in the 1971 Bangladesh War.
Fresh crossover from INC Rao Inderjit Singh got an MoS berth, but Jagdambika Pal could not make it to the list.
Hindutva cheerleaders, with half-baked knowledge of portfolio allocation rules, procedures and conventions, wondered why Subramanian Swamy was not considered for a ministry after first being denied an election ticket. The economy-oriented observers questioned when Arun Shourie, who was disinvestment minister in the previous NDA Government, would figure in the new dispensation’s scheme of things.
The list as a whole projects a good mix of caste but leaves many States unrepresented or underrepresented. Apparently, States that will face Assembly elections soon have been prioritised.
A link between one’s proven merit in a certain field and the job given to him or her cannot be established in most cases. The brighter side of the story is that the newbies come without any baggage. Furthermore, if Modi wants to realise his own vision for India, he would not, in all likelihood, want to be weighed down by politicians who are also experts in their respective fields of work.
The full list:
|Narendra Modi||Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions
Department of Atomic Energy Department of Space
All important policy issues
and all other portfolios not allocated to any Minister
|1||Raj Nath Singh||Home Affairs|
|2||Sushma Swaraj||External Affairs
Overseas Indian Affairs
|4||M Venkaiah Naidu||Urban Development
Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation
|5||Nitin Jairam Gadkari||Road Transport and Highways
|6||DV Sadananda Gowda||Railways|
|7||Uma Bharati||Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation|
|8||Najma A Heptulla||Minority Affairs|
|9||Gopinathrao Munde||Rural Development
Drinking Water and Sanitation
|10||Ramvilas Paswan||Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution|
|11||Kalraj Mishra||Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises|
|12||Maneka Sanjay Gandhi||Women and Child Development|
|13||Ananthkumar||Chemicals and Fertilizers|
|14||Ravi Shankar Prasad||Communications and Information Technology
Law and Justice
|15||Ashok Gajapathi Raju Pusapati||Civil Aviation|
|16||Anant Geete||Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises|
|17||Harsimrat Kaur Badal||Food Processing Industries|
|18||Narendra Singh Tomar||Mines
Labour and Employment
|19||Jual Oram||Tribal Affairs|
|20||Radha Mohan Singh||Agriculture|
|21||Thaawar Chand Gehlot||Social Justice and Empowerment|
|22||Smriti Zubin Irani||Human Resource Development|
|23||Harsh Vardhan||Health and Family Welfare|
Ministers of State
|1||Gen (Retd) VK Singh||Development of North Eastern Region (Independent Charge)
Overseas Indian Affairs
|2||Inderjit Singh Rao||Planning (Independent Charge)
Statistics and Programme Implementation (Independent Charge)
|3||Santosh Kumar Gangwar||Textiles (Independent Charge)
Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation
|4||Shripad Yesso Naik||Culture (Independent Charge)
Tourism (Independent Charge)
|5||Dharmendra Pradhan||Petroleum and Natural Gas (Independent Charge)|
|6||Sarbananda Sonowal||Skill Development, Entrepreneurship, Youth Affairs and Sports (Independent Charge)|
|7||Prakash Javadekar||Information and Broadcasting (Independent Charge)
Environment, Forest and Climate Change (Independent Charge)
|8||Piyush Goyal||Power (Independent Charge)
Coal (Independent Charge)
New and Renewable Energy (Independent Charge)
|9||Dr Jitendra Singh||Science and Technology (Independent Charge)
Earth Sciences (Independent Charge)
Prime Minister Office
Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions
Department of Atomic Energy
Department of Space
|10||Nirmala Sitharaman||Commerce and Industry (Independent Charge)
|11||GM Siddeshwara||Civil Aviation|
|13||Nihalchand||Chemicals and Fertilizers|
|14||Upendra Kushwaha||Rural Development
Drinking Water and Sanitation
|15||Radhakrishnan P||Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises|
|16||Kiren Rijiju||Home Affairs|
|17||Krishan Pal||Road Transport and Highways
|18||Dr Sanjeev Kumar Balyan||Agriculture
Food Processing Industries
|19||Mansukhbhai Dhanjibhai Vasava||Tribal Affairs|
|20||Raosaheb Dadarao Danve||Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution|
|21||Vishnu Deo Sai||Mines
Labour and Employment
|22||Sudarshan Bhagat||Social Justice and Empowerment|