The much-awaited of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s second term took place on Wednesday. 43 ministers were sworn-in, of which 36 are new faces. Seven erstwhile ministers were promoted and 12 were asked to resign.
The expansion gives clear signals to the citizens of India about PM Modi’s seriousness to leave behind a rich legacy. In his second leg of the Cabinet reshuffle, in his second innings, the focus is on delivery and performance.
This is not just a reshuffle, but a big overhaul with an eye on ensuing state elections and general elections 2024.
What are the objectives of this Cabinet expansion?
1. Improve governance
The Modi Cabinet had 28 vacant positions. The reshuffle exercise helps fill up these vacancies and now there are 77 ministers, out of a quota of 81. In a pandemic-ravaged economy, at a very critical crossroads, you need the full bench strength to tide over the crisis.
The prime minister carried out an appraisal of the existing ministers and, based on a ratings exercise similar to a corporate unit, performers were rewarded and non-performers shown the door. Seven ministers of state have been elevated to Cabinet level.
Two critical ministries — Health and Education — have witnessed a change. Dr Harsh Vardhan had to pay the price for mishandling the COVID crisis, while under Ramesh Pokhriyal not much headway had been made on the new education policy.
2. Strengthen social coalition and representation
The Bharatiya Janata Party, over the years, has shed its image of an upper caste and baniya party. Today, Other Backward Classes (OBCs), Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) are its anchor voting segments.
The expansion includes many ministers from these communities and bolsters its image as a true torchbearer representing backwards and Dalits.
Today, there are 27 ministers from the OBC community, 12 from SC and 8 from ST community, representing 60% of the ministry’s strength.
MPs from 25 states and Union Territories are now ministers in the new Cabinet.
3. Improve chances in poll-bound states next year
In 2022, as many as 7 states go to polls, including the electorally all-important state of Uttar Pradesh. The BJP is in power in 6 of these states. Eight ministers have been inducted from UP, 6 from Gujarat, 1 each from Uttarakhand and Manipur. Former MoS for Finance Anurag Thakur has been promoted and he hails from Himachal Pradesh. There are no inductees from Punjab where the party is not in contention.
4. Negate criticism of lack of talent
Modi’s ministry has been criticised for ‘lack of talent’. Now it has four former chief ministers, 7 IAS officers. 23 ministers have been MPs for more than 2-3 terms. Technocrats like Rajeev Chandrasekhar and Ashwini Vaishnav have been included.
Ministries of the new economy have been given to youth with the average age of ministers now is 58, down from 61.
5. Course-correction and infuse energy
This mid-term reboot helps PM Modi to infuse new blood and energy into the system. In this pandemic world, countries need new thought processes, skills, and strategies to succeed and this can be provided by new leadership. In a way this expansion builds foundation for the next stage of the BJP leaders who will take forward the party in this new decade.
6. Accommodation of allies
The expansion enables the BJP to add allies like Apna Dal, Janata Dal (United) and Lok Janshakti Party (which is witnessing a fight over control of the party) in the ministry. With the exit of old partners like Akali Dal and Shiv Sena, a message needed to be sent across that BJP is not anti-small parties and respects the value they bring to the table.
7. Bring transparency and accountability in governance
New ministers have been provided with KPIs, top deliverables and they need to come up with a blueprint, a roadmap, for implementation of the vision of Modi’s ‘new India’.
To sum up, the BJP hopes this expansion will raise the bar of performance and the new Cabinet will escort India out of the crisis inflicted by the pandemic.