The much awaited expansion of the union cabinet of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has happened. Here are six quick takeaways on the first leg of this process:
First, the next generation is clearly taking shape. Four senior leaders, Nirmala Sitharaman, Piyush Goyal, Dharmendra Pradhan and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, have been elevated to the rank of a cabinet minister; they were preceded by Prakash Javadekar.
Second, all the inductions belong to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). And this even as the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has only recently grown its national electoral footprint. The surprising omission is the NDA’s latest entrant, Janata Dal (United). Further, all the ministers who were elevated belonged to the BJP. It will be interesting to see whether this will cause heartburn within the NDA.
Third, the union cabinet has seen an induction of professionals, reflecting a clear preference ordering of PM Modi. The BJP has been criticised of having an inadequate bench strength to fill in the key portfolios and so it will be interesting to see if some of the new entrants will be given big portfolios. Making the cut are former bureaucrats such as India’s Home Secretary Raj Kumar Singh, Mumbai police commissioner Satya Pal Singh, Indian Foreign Service officer Hardeep Puri and Delhi Development Authority commissioner Alphons Kannanthanam.
Fourth, the list of dropped ministers suggest the government is prioritising the task of job creation. This is apparent form the fact that a new boss will take charge in the three ministries of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, Skills Development and Entrepreneurship and Labour and Employment.
Fifth, the makeover of the union cabinet shows the BJP has a clear eye on the coming 2019 Lok Sabha showdown. New additions to the cabinet include two each from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar--key states who together elect 120 MPs to the Lok Sabha.
Sixth, and finally, with the elevation of ministers the PM is sending a clear signal that performance will be rewarded. Petroleum and natural gas minister Dharmendra Pradhan has been credited for piloting the highly successful subsidised cooking gas targeted at women living below the poverty line, whille power, coal, mines and new and renewable energy minister Piyush Goyal was instrumental in initiating key reforms to revamp the power sector.
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