There are good signs that Narendra Modi will settle for a small cabinet. In the last 30 years, particularly since the fall of the Congress government in 1996, we have had gigantic cabinets. The maximum limit set by law is that the Government will not have more Ministers than 11% of the combined strength of the two houses of Parliament.
To accommodate a gigantic cabinet, Ministries had to be broken up. For example, the Ministry of Energy has now become Power and Non-conventional energy. Industry has become Ministry of industry, Ministry for small scale industry, etc. Agriculture has split into different Ministries. Is this all necessary when the actual activity of government has come down?
The Civil Aviation ministry has only the DGCA and supervises Air India. Though the Airports Authority of India comes under the Ministry of Civil Aviation, 70 % of air traffic is handled by the private airports of Hyderabad, Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore.
The Ministry of Steel was earlier responsible for steel plants, which produced 80% of the country’s steel. But that is no longer the situation. Most of the steel is produced privately and can be imported freely. Yet, we have a Ministry of Steel. Should it not be clubbed with the Ministry of Mines and Coal? The activities of the Ministry of Mines and Coal are also much less now than they were earlier. There is a lot of private sector activity. It would make far more sense to have an able minister as head of a combined Ministry of Steel, Coal and Mines.
Similarly, it might make more sense to have a Ministry of Energy which would have Power, Non -Conventional Energy and Atomic Energy together. It does not make sense to have a separate Ministry of Science and Technology. It should be clubbed with the Ministry of Human Resources.
A smaller cabinet will also allow the Prime Minister to better supervise what is going on. We have seen in the recent past that the Prime Minister was unable to supervise individual Ministers and separate fiefdoms were enabled, thereby leading to administrative chaos. The country looks forward to fewer ministries and better action.
There is also no political pressure from allies on the BJP or Narendra Modi. The BJP has a majority on its own. This is the first test for Narendra Modi.