Alliance partners left red-faced; media kept clueless as Modi takes bold steps

Rohit Chandavakar
Sunday, 3 September 2017

The much awaited and anticipated expansion of the Union Cabinet was announced on Sunday just before Prime Minister Narendra Modi left for China. This is perhaps the last reshuffle of the Modi government Council of Ministers before the next big political test Modi faces in 2019. In that sense, all eyes were on the Cabinet expansion.

The much awaited and anticipated expansion of the Union Cabinet was announced on Sunday just before Prime Minister Narendra Modi left for China. This is perhaps the last reshuffle of the Modi government Council of Ministers before the next big political test Modi faces in 2019. In that sense, all eyes were on the Cabinet expansion.

The big surprise in the reshuffle has obviously been the elevation of BJP leader Nirmala Sitharaman from a Minister of State level to straight Cabinet rank of a very important ministry like Defence. Her elevation and the elevation of another minister Piyush Goyal came as big surprises which none of the national news television media could predict. In fact, the media for the longest time since the last 10 days was predicting that Amit Shah will join the Cabinet and Nitin Gadkari will be given Railway portfolio, both of which turned out to be completely false.

It only shows that despite most of the national media fully supporting the Modi government and almost working as the government’s public relations wing, they are completely clueless about what is exactly happening inside the government.  

Some clear signals have come out of the Cabinet expansion that Prime Minister Narendra Modi executed on Sunday.

Firstly, Modi has shown more dependence on people who have had experience in bureaucracy and diplomatic service. Secondly, he has not really cracked down on people who were perceived to be non-performers such as Uma Bharati so the reshuffle is more politically balanced.

Thirdly, Modi has kept or given absolutely no scope to BJP’s alliance partners, giving a clear signal that unlike the Manmohan Singh government the BJP does not need to depend on alliance partners for political gains in the future and fourthly, it has also exposed how the national media including very aggressive news television media which always claims to know and predict things in advance has been left red-faced because absolutely none of their predictions have come true.
Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah met the new ministers on Sunday morning at the Prime Minister’s residence. PM Modi reportedly told them to perform and ‘do a good job’. His Council of Ministers will now have 76 ministers, up from 73. It can have a maximum 81 members.

Earlier six ministers were asked to quit to make way for the new faces and sources said they were largely pink-slipped over performance, as PM Modi looks to streamline government performance and efficiency and speed up development work ahead of the 2019 national elections when he will seek a second term.

Nirmala Sitharaman will be the country’s new Defence Minister while Piyush Goyal will be the new Railways Minister after a Cabinet reshuffle on Sunday that saw nine new ministers take the oath. Ms Sitharaman and Mr Goyal too took oath after being promoted to Cabinet rank along with Dharmendra Pradhan and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi. Nirmala Sitharaman will be the first woman Defence Minister after Indira Gandhi, who held the department for a short while when she was Prime Minister. 58-year-old Nirmala Sitharaman now will be part of the Cabinet Committee on Security  (CCS), which also includes the Prime Minister, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and Finance Minster Arun Jaitley. Sitharaman credited her elevation to
‘cosmic grace’.

PM Narendra Modi has taken some very bold decisions in this Cabinet expansion and has taken some political risks while keeping the alliance partners away from the opportunities. Only time will tell if his calculations will pay off or not.

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