New Cabinet of India


The New government has sworn in after a historic election. People gave a historic mandate for stable government after 30 years of coalition governments at centre.

Obviously there were many expectations after such a mandate that new ‘Team India’ which will run the country for next 5 year would comprise of best of people from different walks of life. Off course, the question of who would be captain was already settled. Revolution of rising expectation was at its peak. But when cabinet was declared, there were not many surprise elements. Innovation quotient was also rather average.

Tough it would be premature to pass the judgement but preliminary comments on cabinet formation:

1. Cabinet Free From Coalition Compulsion. Not Really!

People were expecting absence of Coalition compulsion. But they were too eager to do so & disappointment was on expected line. Most of coalition, evens the smaller one with 2-3 seats, was accommodated in cabinet -which interestingly was one of smallest in recent years. This resulted in denial of due share to various states which gave historic mandate in favour of ruling party. Also the ministers chosen were not entirely choice of Prime Minister, as it should be, but were recommended people from Party bosses (in case of Shiv Sena & SAD) or Party Bosses themselves (Mr. Upenra Kushwaha, Mr.Ramvilas Paswan).

The coalition compulsion didn’t stop here. The Shiv Sena Minister didn’t join the ministry on day one citing that they sought different ministry (so it’s no longer prerogative of PM on either who should be minister & what ministry should be allocated…& after-all Heavy Industries doesn’t seems to give Heavy Return !). The same happened during the previous coalition government. More interesting is audacity of people from coalition partners like SS to put forward such demand in public despite the fact that BJP alone has majority at centre. This shows coalition compulsion didn’t end at majority at centre. It continues to operate due to compulsion of coalition at state level or state politics.

2. Representation to various geographies! But many left out

Cabinet have representation from various parts of India. It has people from Kashmir in North to Kanyakumari in South, from Gujarat in West to Arunachal Pradesh in East.  But in process many regions were entirely neglected one such example is Rajasthan which got only one MoS despite sending 25 MPs to winning party. On other hand, states like Maharashtra, Haryana & Delhi NCR Region got disproportionate share. This doesn’t augur well.

Yes, you can talk about India being one nation so it doesn’t matter from where the cabinet members come but it does. Representation based on geographies and various social groups not only have symbolic value but also substantial value.

3. Mandate was for LokSabha but Rajya Sabha would Rule!

Many sane people like Shivraj Singh Chouhan in past had demanded that RajyaSabha, a historic  relic, in which money power dictate the seats (otherwise what explain the number of industrialists like Vijay Mallaya, Anil Ambani , Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Rahul Bajaj & list goes on.. occupying RS seats) , should be disbanded. But alas! The power that is – RS rules. It is way to accommodate Delhi coterie, the leaders who don’t have any mass base, who are not responsible or accountable to anyone except their financiers. 

Things don’t stop at being MP. They are there to rule the India. It doesn’t matter if they lose the battle in Loksabha, even by a bad margin. RajyaSabha would provide avenue to rule India. Even our Prime Minister has done that in past. 

One clearly noticeable trend in present cabinet is ‘Disproportionate Share of Rajysabha MPs in Cabinet’. While the overwhelming mandate was for Loksabha but it was Rajysabha MPs who cornered important and lucrative portfolio. These include Finance, Defence, HRD, Power, Coal, Legal, Urban Development etc.

Mind that this was despite the fact that BJP has announced earlier that those who want ministry should contest the election & that was one of reason why former party president Nitin Gadkari decided to fight the LS election.

Hidden within the RajyaSabha membership is fact that People who were more in media than at ground got disproportionate share of ministries including three spokespersons (Mr. Prakash Javdekar, Ms. Niramala Sitharaman & Mr. Ravi Shankar Prasad) & one treasurer (Mr.Piyush Goyal) & off course media darling Mr. AJ.

Never Mind, even if you can’t fight election you have chance to rule the nation. The only requirement is you should be loyal to power that be, visible in media & good rapport in Delhi Durbar.

If you want to fight election, you are welcome. You didn’t need to worry about winning at all. Because if party comes to power you still have chances to rule the country provided you fulfil the above criterion. That was reason people like Mr. Arun Jaitely, Ms Smriti Irani, who lost elections are given plumb posting!

Off course in politics you have freedom to taunt your opponent (like Mr. AJ used to do to Mr. MMS) but same principle don’t apply to you. ‘One core principle of politics is Principle of Double Standard.’ 

3. Delhi coterie and ultra-loyalist (not necessarily organisational man) co-opted.

People were desperate for change and they gave chances to outsider in anticipation that there would be some drastic changes (for better). But alas! We forget one of Maxim “More the things change, more they remain same.”

How can anyone run the Delhi Durbar without presence of people from Delhi coterie, who speaks for whole India but aren’t able to win even one LokSabha seat. Beside they have added advantage of being proficient in English & language of diplomacy which many MPs who won from hinterland didn’t have. Off course they do have organisational network, how does it matter, if they are expert in manipulating and manoeuvring with press, PR & lobbyist rather than the real masses of dusty hinterland. 

4. Loyalty is more rewarding than competence & capabilities

It pays to be loyal in politics. This was very clear from shape of council of ministers filled with loyalist to Prime Minister. Very few baiters may have been accommodated but that was just to show that you care for party & to not get distracted by rebellion. Competence and capabilities can’t deliver without core element of loyalty to power that is. Nor can Domain Expertise or Special knowledge or experience or exposure of different facets of governance.

There is nothing wrong in appointing loyalist as minister, Prime Minister has full freedom to do so especially after he has won mandate on his leadership. He should be provided full freedom to choose his team to translate his vision into reality. The only hiccup is that there is only thin line between being loyalist & toeing the line on every issue. The later can turn hazardous as once flattery start it doesn’t take long to become appendage. Then the only causality would be the public opinion. Lack of serious dialogue, debate & deliberation within cabinet – filled with all yes men -can play havoc.  

Some Silver Linings within the above scenario are:

1. Not many dynastic faces find the space in new ministry. May be a good start and it would broaden the political talent available. It certainly sent the message that people with certain capabilities can expect important position even they are without connections but it certainly expect the loyalty to the power that to be

2. Lack of politically heavy-weight in minister may reduce the friction in government. The only thing they need to do is remain attuned to ground for continuous feedback through various channels. They shouldn’t become complacent.

3. There is for first time talk of accountability of individual ministers for their performance. This can put pressure on them to perform or perish. If it is actually implemented then it is good change. You can expect change of guards in coming years if they don’t perform.

4. People not having baggage of previous experience & not having domain expertise may eventually prove very good minister. As they have enough experts for advice at their disposal. Only thing they need is sincerity in their work & a bit of common sense. Off course, they need to be open minded for ideas, suggestion and feedback to deliver the agenda of people.

5. PMO is going to be much stronger and playing a coordinating role between the ministries. Having loyalist in various ministries allows the PM to implement his agenda without any hindrance and it also provides much needed coherence in governance.

6. Anyway, the real obstacle is implementation and that is job of bureaucrats. Clear, decisive leadership at top can mobilise the government machinery & that can work wonder. Some encouraging sign are appoint of people like Mr. Nripendra Mishra – Principal Secretary in PMO, who has earlier worker under Mr. Arun Shourie to bring telecom mess to end.  

7. Off course, this is just a start & more is going to come. Domain experts & specialist (or technocrats) can always be engaged in various capacities in implementation and deciding the vision for future.

People who were looking for Power-shift with drastic overhaul are certainly disappointed.

Now time for true Citizens is to put the new govt under scrutiny for every action and putting them on toe to deliver them for what they have promised. Only sustained efforts on this front despite our much reservation along with constructive cooperation can help to translate vision intro reality.  

“Together we will script a glorious future for India. Let us together dream of a strong, developed and inclusive India that actively engages with the global community to strengthen the cause of world peace and development”. (From Press Briefing of Prime Minister)

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