One immediate consequence of this cabinet expansion is that Arun Jaitley has automatically lost his position as being the only Adviser of Modi. New Ministers Manohar Parikker, Suresh Prahbu, Birendra Chowdhury are not followers of Jaitley and they are direct selections of Modi. The inclusion of independent political entities in the Cabinet automatically means that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will listen to them.
Manohar Parriker is a confident politician and he is not a protégé of any Delhi leader. He owes his position to the image he carved out for himself. At one time, after the resignation of L.K. Advani s BJP President, Manohar Parriker was the first choice of the RSS to be the BJP President. He did not want to leave Goa and hence Nitin Gadkhari became the BJP President. Parriker articulate, clean and has been a long time Chief Minister of a State. Very few BJP central Ministers have been Chief Minister of a state and if they have been Chief Ministers like, Sadanda Gowda, etc.they have been Chief Ministers for very short periods.
Parikker is also an educated person and has been able to do social engineering in Goa. There is a 30% Christian population in Goa and for the first time, the BJP and Manohar Parriker have managed a coalition with Christian parties and form governments in Goa.
Suresh Prabhu is the new Railway Minister. Along with Parikker, he will emerge as an Advisor to Narendra Modi. Prabhu served as Minister in Vajpayee’s cabinet. Though he did a short stint, he earned a high reputation. There has been a long gap of 12 years when Suresh Prahbu has been out of office. Though out of office, Suresh Prahbu kept himself relevant. There is no doubt that Prahbu has endeared himself to various sections and earned a reputation as a thinker and doer.
Modi will increasingly depend on him to give him advice and Prabhu will have full functional and operational freedom to run the Railways Ministry as he deems fit. Suresh Prabhu is no Sadananda Gowda, the former Minister of Railways. It is obvious that Prime Minister Modi felt that his cabinet lacked enough executive an intellectual prowess. The search might not have ended. There are still 120 vacancies.
When the Modi government was sworn in May, 2014, there were signs that he will depend a lot on the bureaucracy.
But the Bureaucray obviously failed Modi:
Modi’s style is to give a power to officials and depend on them. His theory is weak Ministers do not matter since officials will run the government. In the last 6 months, this theory has failed. Officials can help run a small state like Gujarat. But they cannot run a country like India with foreign relations, defence, national economy, judiciary and the entire nation to think of. If officials were sufficient, then Modi would not have sacked railway minister Gowda. There is a certain perception that the education minister Smrithi Irani and Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh are also not keeping pace with the ambitions of Modi.
One of the greatest British Prime Ministers Harold Macmillan said over 60 years ago “A good Prime Minister must be a good butcher“. Macmillan meant that a Prime Minister should never hesitate to dismiss a Minister who had become a liability to government. Had Manmohan Singh sacked Telecom Minister Raja an others, his government might have survived.
There is no doubt that Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, Venkaiah Naidu is doing well. Nirmala Sitharaman, Kirren Rijiju, Nithin Gadkhari, Ravi Shanker Prasad are showing great potential. Prakash Javedkar has been outstanding in Ministry of Environment and removed the corrupt “Jayanthi tax“.
Then of course, there is talk that technocrats must be made Ministers and they will solve problems of the country. One must remember that in the Manmohan Singh government for 10 years, there were dozens of technocrats like Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Pitroda, many economists and other foreign trained lawyers. The result was that they totally destroyed the Congress party. Modi should not fall into this trap.
Government needs skilled technocrats. But Prime Minister must keep in mind that common sense is very important. An ideal Minister would be a political heavyweight, who is also a technocrat.
Disappointing that Modi did not include some heavyweights:
Narendra Modi cannot manufacture political heavyweights. But surely, he can include highly qualified people in his cabinet and find them places in Rajya Sabha. That has not been done. Time will tell whether the cabinet re-shuffle of November, 2014 solved any problems. But it is definitely disappointing that Modi did not induct more intellectual stars in government.
As a government becomes pedestrian, it loses steam. Modi can avoid that by inducting some stars into his cabinet. Why not Azim Premji of WIPRO, who is also a great philanthropist? Why not some great economist? There are still 20 vacancies in the government. Time will tell how the government will face challenges which come up suddenly. When Harold Macmillan was Prime Minister of Brittan, he was asked what he feared most: “Events, dear boy “.
Macmillan meant that at any time un-expected events will come up and the government will have to face them and solve them. Such evens have not yet tested the Modi government.