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The new Council of Ministers: BJP’s Kamraj Plan?

The Union Council of ministers is thoroughly refabricated, reconstructed and re-shaped giving altogether a new look, new narrative and perhaps a new vision, entirely contrary to general political analysts’ belief that there might be a general expansion to take care of the existing vacancies and greater representation – many talked about names are not seen and there are quite good surprises. The exercise was important, long awaited and needed and it should not have taken that much of time. The timing of the exercise provides the only explanation of having the motive and aim to start working in election mode and give an impression that the center represents the spread, sociological structure and economic equation of the country. 

BJP appears to have taken a leaf from the remote past of Congress almost replicating 1963 Kamraj Plan, albeit differently and in limited way, though the full plan is yet to unfold and take a visible shape. The Congress plan was envisaged at the aftermath of 1962 humiliation at China border with aging and demoralized Nehru and stagnant and hesitant Congress. The situation, pretext and context might or might not resemble and the response to this might or might not commensurate with as it had been. 

Notwithstanding the names and repute of those who were made to leave the scene and that of those who are taken in, the Prime Minister and BJP has taken enormous political risks. Post Vajpayee-Advani era stalwarts having been sidelined, BJP has been largely seen as a party lacking people with caliber of proven administrative efficiency and efficacy. Given the free hand that he always destined to have, the Prime Minister is considered to be a dispassionate and ruthless task master having his own rigid yardsticks of credentials that his cabinet colleagues, rather subordinates, must possess. It must have been, therefore, too tough for the people around him to convince the Prime Minister of the candidature of the people they might have advocated for. The Prime Minister himself, otherwise, is also known to be closely watching the enterprise of the party MPs and continuously and regularly having very intense feed backs on their overall testimonials.

Seeing the vastness and deepness of the exercise it can very well be construed that lot of brain- storming sessions have taken place and lot of inputs have been put in and examined measuring and calculating the positive potentials as well as the risk factor involved in doing so. However, yet increased and enhanced role of PMO is one thing which is very well in sight at least to begin with in order to provide the focus and direction of the intent of the Prime Minister. 

Many of the most focused, efficient and vocal ministers have put in their papers and have been replaced with people yet to be tested credentials of barring a few. For long now they had been the face of Narendra Modi govt and their exits – especially of Ravi Shankar Prasad, Harsh Vardhan, Prakash Javedkar and Ramesh Pokhriyal – would justifiably raise uncomfortable questions in various minds away from the party too. Post pandemic, when almost everything is stranded and crucial, steep and long leap would urgently be needed in almost all spheres, induction of new faces indicates towards so many directions. Profiles of many new incumbents, though, are educationally outstanding convincing and promising – most of them being professionally qualified and few also ex-civil servants. Seemingly the overall outlook of the council of ministers appears academically attractive, which may ensure innovative working if provided space. 

It is understandable to see the representations of Dalits in good numbers hailing from different geographies of the country rendering unequivocal message. In fact, this is where there had been much of delay in realization which must have reflected in the center from very inception. It is also heartening to observe good numbers from women. The caste-creed-minority representation of various segments from across states too is visible. Younger faces too are more than visible which would see reduced average age of the council of ministers. Young faces inspire promises and hopes and appear to be good indicators of decision making and also the leaders in making.

The baggage of incoming defections too has been taken care of trying repaying them for their contributions, the biggest of the catches being Jyotiradiya Scindia of MP and Narayan Rane of Maharashtra. MP has been a traditional strong-hold of BJP and Maharashtra having a huge potential to expand. There are huge political expectations from both of them. For the first time the numbers of ministers having no past background of BJP will be remarkable in the Union cabinet and BJP would have to work overtime assimilating them into the ideology and the ethos the party stands for.

UP has been given overwhelming representation of eight seats, that makes sense given not only the upcoming elections but internal political demands and compulsions too. Maharashtra with four entrants, mostly turn-coats, led by Rane puts an aggressive narrative against Shiv Sena. Many in state BJP are apparently unhappy for turn-coats being given ‘uncalled for and needless’ importance. Madhya Pradesh at two too did not get proper numbers. NDA constituents got symbolic representations and Nitish Kumar left the stubbornness of proportional representation for his JD (U), perhaps happier successfully finishing Chirag Paswan of LJP by his own uncle and establishing Pashupati Paras, his own loyal, convincingly in place of Ram Vilas Paswan. Bihar too has a lot of time to wait as of now.  

Newly crafted Ministry of Cooperation, as conceived and envisaged for strengthening the cooperative movement in the country to help and facilitate ‘true people-based movement reaching up to grass-roots’ going under Amit Shah has deep meaning. The pet dream scheme of the Prime Minister would make Amit Shah yet more important in current dispensation. Since the ministry aims at ‘streamline processes for ease of doing business’, it would require coordination of various ministries and there lies the projected importance of the ministry.

The shape, quality and outlook of the ministry have been given lot of thought and has come out to seem like a good combined mixture of qualifying factors. The overall impact should be enhanced efficiency, better quality and greater accountability. The fatigue of seven plus years should end and a fresh endeavor appear at each of the sectors – that is the urgent demand of the day. 

Providing representations to cross-section of castes, classes and segments is very important for any ministry. But people of today are not that naïve today – trying appease their aspirations, expectations and egos just before upcoming state elections may have the potential of back-firing too. Why, after all, must they be kept waiting just to be utilized at material times.

The political impacts of all this are all the more important. BJP and its govt have to initiate fresh starts – the freshness of post 2014 is nowhere to be seen both at the party and at the govt levels, even though personal glamour and appeal of the Prime Minister remains intact. The ministers have to be seen and rated on their respective performance and not by the slogans that they invent with each passing day. At the end of the day a no-nuisance performer like Nitin Gadkari will be wide visible to the people.   

The Kamraj Plan of Congress saw many key center ministers – like Jagjivan Ram, Lal Bahdur Shastri, Morarji Desai – leaving their chairs to devote their times to strengthening the party. Many leading Chief Ministers did also follow suit including Kamraj too. Lal Bahadur Shastri was re-inducted and made a clear number two in Nehru’s cabinet. BJP’s scheme of things might have their own ramifications! 



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Views expressed above are the author’s own.



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