Sunday 24 October 2021
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Modi Sends Across Message With Cabinet Shuffle

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What is arguably more interesting than the induction of 43 MPs as union ministers is the resignation of Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank and Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar. While representing nearly all parts of the country with the new appoiñtments, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has clearly tightened the screws on aspects of governance that were appearing loose. It is true that no government in the world except the creator of coronavirus, China, has the answer to Covid-19. Therefore, the prevailing situation of the pandemic in the country — never mind the recent assuring figures of more recoveries, less fatality and fewer active cases — cannot be the outgoing health minister’s mistake. However, his resignation is a show of intent on the part of the chief political executive who, with his policies and actions, communicates not only to the domestic audience but also to the global community. The IT minister had done his own career no good by cribbing publicly that American company Twitter was walking all over him. A minister of Modi cutting such a sorry face in the face of the belligerence of a leftist company that kept dragging its feet on the issue of compliance with the new rules made by the government was making news for all the wrong reasons. One wonders what role the education minister was playing as the new policy in this domain did not bear his signature anywhere. Coming across as nothing more than an examination-postponing minister, Nishank had to say on record today he would no longer be a part of the union council of ministers. The I&B ministry was, meanwhile, struggling or swinging between the ends of “to be or not to be, that is the question” on the issue of censorship, as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+Hotstar, MX Player, Zee5 and several other OTT platforms were thumbing their noses at the dispensation, showcasing anti-Hindu as much as anti-establishment content. Javadekar, however, did not surprise with his lost act as, in his previous avatar as the HRD minister, he had been as clueless when he had sought pride in the fact that he had not changed even a comma in the Marxist education curricula India’s children are subjected to.

The resignations of Labour Minister Santosh Gangwar, Minister of Chemical and Fertilisers Sadananda Gowda, Minister of State for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Babul Supriyo, Minister of State for Education, Communications, Electronics & IT Sanjay Dhotre, Minister of State for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Raosaheb Patil Danve, Minister of State for Jal Shakti and Social Justice & Empowerment Rattan Lal Kataria, Minister of State for Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries and MSME Pratap Sarangi, Minister of State For Ministry of Women and Child Development Debasree Chaudhuri and Minister of Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment Thawarchand Gehlot must be seen more as making room for such who could not be members of Prime Minister Modi’s team so far. Of them, Supriyo has been the most visible politically and, in those appearances, he did not quite impress either as BJP’s rabble-rouser in West Bengal or the party’s candidate in the Tollygunge constituency in the recent assembly election. The representation of different states and castes, the inducement of youth, appointments that were promised when some leaders defected, those that were necessitated by changed scenarios in some states and those that eye the assembly elections of 2022 do not merit a comment. A noticeable pattern in the new inductions is the high percentage of MPs with impressive educational backgrounds, with several practitioners and doctorates making it to the league. Unfortunately, India, regardless of the party in power, is not a technocracy and, therefore, it is unlikely they will get portfolios commensurate with their qualifications. Nevertheless, the new team will likely bring fresh energy and hopefully better hope in departments that have disappointed of late.

Finally, the prime minister must recall his promise to the country of “minimum government, maximum governance”. He has been moving in the opposite direction for a long time. A Sahakari Ministry was announced yesterday. This is the second new ministry introduced under Modi 2.0 after the Water Ministry which, for reasons known best to the prime minister, the state needed despite the existence of a similar-sounding Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation. He must be told not every task in the country requires a ministry on top. A ministry comes with the baggage of several departments, many offices and hundreds of senior and junior clerks in them. This can only add to the red tape Modi had promised the nation he would get rid of. One cannot overlook the fact that in 2020 when Japan had announced it was withdrawing investments from China, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu — three states that had announced with a fanfare they were pouncing on the opportunity — lost out to Vietnam because while the small country approached the Japanese businessmen with business-oriented people, the Indian states contacted them through procedure-happy bureaucrats. If there is one approach to governance Modi must change at the earliest, it is his fascination with babus.

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