Major boost to Women an eye on the 2019 elections
By TN Ashok
Keeping an eye on the 2019 elections and deliverables to the electorate, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today reshuffled his cabinet elevating four MOS to cabinet status and adding nine new faces including top bureaucrats while handling Defence to Nirmal Sitharaman, I&B to Smriti Irani , Commerce to Suresh Prabhu and Power to R K Singh.
Modis mantra was both women empowerment as well as rewarding people with professional experience and performance. The four points on which he expanded the cabinet was – Passion, Professionalism, Political acumen and Performance.
The biggest beneficiary of the cabinet expansion is the elevation of Nirmala Sitharaman to cabinet status and vesting the Defence portfolio at a very sensitive and crucial time when India’s relations with its neighbours are a bit strained. By virtue of becoming the Defence Minister she now enters the exclusive inner council of ministers on the national security council who decide major issues headed by the Prime Minister.
For Arun Jaitley, the finance minister battling an embattled economic with low GDP figures and lowest levels of activity in the infrastructure sector, freeing him of the defence portfolio is a major relief. For Dharmendra Pradhan elevating him to the cabinet status comes as a reward for his exemplary performance in demystifying the role of oil and gas ministry as one favouring MNCs and Corporates and bringing it closer to the public domain through the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwal Yojana which has delivered gas as cooking fuel to the lower strata of society.
RK Singh who gives representation to Bihar is the new power minister, while the outgoing Piyush Goes faces an enormous challenge in the Railways Minister which has been tarnished by poor maintenance leading to railway accidents and lost its premier role by merging its budget with the general budget. Piyush gets to handle the coal ministry which is a major supplier to both the railways and power minister which he handled earlier.
Mukthar Abbas Naqvi elevation to cabinet status to handle minority affairs will comfort the vast majority of the minority communities in the country as he is seen as a very moderate and yet progressive in ideas.
The big news is that there is no change in major portfolios as Rajnath Singh continues as Home Minister, Jaitley as Finance. Suresh Prabhu with his vast experience should bring in new hope to the commerce ministry where India faces serious balance of payments issue with China and exports are constantly declining as rupee is unstable and imports are becoming costlier. RK Singh faces challenge as a new face to get ride of the abundance of power to kickstart the manufacturing sector.
Smriti Irani needs to shed her big sister attitude which she did in HRD and got relegated to textiles and be seen as more moderate in handling sensitive issues in the I&B minister which has two main elements under its control the media and the cinema industry, both which far outreach programmes.
Alphonse Kanantharam , a top police officer from Mumbai, is a surprise inclusion and probably his rare insight into matters of sensitive nature would add value to the council of ministers administering the country. Uma Bharti has lost the key portfolio of ganga development for lack of performance as it falls in the PM’s constituency of Varanasi.
Hardip Singh Puri has been working with the government for long in the foreign affairs ministry and has been india’s representative to the United Nations. He will bring value addition to the government.
Surprisingly both Puri and Alphonse are not being used for their domain knowledge on foreign affairs or home land security but in other ministries probably to get them used to first how to handle a ministers job in public domain and in parliament.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted congratulating the elevation of all the four MOS to cabinet status and the new nince faces saying their vast experience and wisdom will enrich the council of ministers, probably the very basic tenet on which his cabinet expansion today was based.
The PM has also sent a message to allies that their states still remaiin as battle ground for the BJP in the next elections and also he wanted to be burdened with the sins of allies as DMK did with the UPA regime. AIADMK was a divided house, JD(U) is facing problems with its ally RJD, Shive Sena is driven by internal dissentions.