New phase: On reconstitution of Union Council of Ministers

Cabinet shuffle aims to improve governance while keeping in mind political considerations

Updated - July 09, 2021 02:28 pm IST

Published - July 09, 2021 12:02 am IST

The reconstitution of the Union Council of Ministers on Wednesday was guided by both political and administrative considerations . As many as 36 new faces were inducted and 12 dropped from the council , which now has 78 members, just three shy of the upper limit of 81. In 2014, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) began its rule advertising its 45-member Council of Ministers as an attempt at minimum government, but the restraint was quietly abandoned in the following years. The political aspirations of communities and regions are difficult to satiate in a country as vast and diverse as India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made an attempt to make his Council more diverse and representative, in a manner that fits his political priorities. The new composition of the Council is in step with the BJP’s relentless efforts to rope in OBC groups, Dalits and tribes people under its Hindutva umbrella politics. This accommodation is crucial for the BJP to continue its dominance in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and other Hindi-speaking regions, where caste tensions are simmering. New inductions and elevations also signal a continued effort by the BJP to expand its influence to new areas such as West Bengal and the northeastern States. Barring the continuing under-representation of Muslims, the council is impressively representative of Indian diversity.

Governance issues might have been a factor in the axing of some of the Ministers. Harsh Vardhan, Ravi Shankar Prasad and Prakash Javadekar were among those who got the marching orders, apparently for mishandling the pandemic, relations with global IT giants and governmental communication, respectively. New inductees such as Ashwini Vaishnaw and Jyotiraditya Scindia have administrative skills that could prove valuable in crucial ministries that they now head. Individual talent and accountability both can only be contextual, and in a highly centralised system they become immaterial. The Ministers must be empowered to plan and take decisions in their respective areas. The notion of collective responsibility of the cabinet must be infused with meaning. Discussions in the cabinet must be open. Proposals that come for the cabinet’s consideration must go through rigorous technical vetting and wide political consultations. The recomposition was intended to enhance governance, rev up the economy and fuel the BJP’s political march ahead of crucial State elections and the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. All these would be possible only if all hands are on the deck. Assembling a team is indeed a crucial task of a captain; allowing them to flourish as individuals while playing as a team is equally critical.

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