A lot of thought and deliberations had reportedly gone into making the Modi 2.0 Cabinet reshuffle; endless meetings happened between Prime Minister Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah , BJP President JP Nadda and all those who mattered in the RSS . Yet what we saw as a major overhaul of Modi Government’s on July 7 evening at Rashtrapati Bhavan did little to convince if the axing of senior ministers like Ravishankar Prasad and Prakash Javedkar among 12 ministers by itself was enough to signal that decision- making and delivery mechanism of the regime would improve overnight.
That is because much of the new inclusions largely consisted of rewarding turncoats who joined the BJP from other parties — be it in Maharashtra or West Bengal. From Maharashtra, three Ministers of State and a Cabinet rank minister Narayan Rane had been appointed . Rane joined the BJP a little before 2019 polls; his appointment as a Central minister is important now as it comes amidst talk of a possible rapprochement between BJP and the Shiv Sena; with Rane around it seems there would be no scope of BJP- Sena burying the hatchet.
Before joining the BJP, Rane had done his time in the Congress as well as the NCP. As for the two other ministers from Maharashtra — Bhiwandi MP Kapil Patil , who is a OBC leader , he had moved from the NCP to the BJP in 2014; Dindori MP Dr Bharati Pawar had also chosen to move to the BJP just before the 2019 elections. The fourth MP from Maharashtra is a first term Rajya Sabha MP Dr Bhagwat Karad ,a surgeon from Aurangabad .
It is not just in Maharashtra , that the Modi 2.0 rejig has provided a front to protect all those who recently moved into the BJP a little before the 2019 elections’. In West Bengal too it has maintained the trend of providing protection to all those who have been hammered by Trinamool Congress for joining the BJP. That means old party loyalists have not got anything from the reshuffle deal. Included from Bengal are four Lok Sabha MPs who all fiercely resisted Trinamool Congress; there is Nishant Pramanik, a one- time close aide of Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek , John Barla who works among tea labourers , Matua Mahasangh leader Santosh Thakur and Bankura MP Dr Subhas Sarkar.
Not that all inclusions have been heart-wrenching and disappointing .Inclusions of bright , qualified people in the Cabinet have also been done and it does inspire confidence . Like the inclusion of Jyotiraditya Scindia and technocrat Ashwini Vaishnav. A former Minister, Scindia, had patiently bided his time for over a year to join the Government ; he had joined the BJP in March 2020 and helped the BJP regain power in Madhya Pradesh. He has now been made the new Civil Aviation Minister.
Ashwini Vaishnav’s entry in the Council of Ministers is important not because he is a technocrat with impeccable credentials. An IAS officer of Odisha cadre , Vaishnav is a product of IIT-Kanpur & educated at Wharton; he had worked in Atal Behari Vajpayee’s PMO. Before entering politics, he had a brief stint as an entrepreneur . He is our new Rail Minister.
In the reshuffle some harsh decisions have also been taken such as showing the door to I-T minister Ravi Shankar Prasad . In this credit ought to be given to the Prime Minister for having the Patna MP in his Council of Minister for seven long years even though he was among the pro L.K. Advani clique that had resisted Modi being projected as prime ministerial candidate for 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
As for Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal’s exit from the government, much is attributed to his ill health. It is widely believed Pokhriyal’s indiscretions cost him dearly– at times it became so embarrassing that even the PMO had to advise him to take it easy and go on a break . Pokhriyal had become such a burden that the BJP thought it fit to let go of him ahead of Uttrakhand assembly polls . As for Health Minister Harsh Vardhan , he simply paid for inability to cope with the pandemic. Ahead of UP assembly polls next year , of course , the party played safe and fell back on its favourite formula of giving representation to micro caste groups– if the rejig saw Apna Dal chief Anupriya Patel making a comeback, it also saw accommodation of several OBC MPs from the state in the Government . After such a huge exercise , it is such a relief to see that PM Modi has entrusted crucial portfolios of health, education and law with familiar hands– that is ministers who prefer to keep a low profile .
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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