Editorial

Perform or perish: on the Cabinet reshuffle

For a change, performance, and not political expedience, seems to have dictated the nature and extent of the shuffle in the Council of Ministers. A few of the poor performers have been shown the door, notably Ministers of State Bandaru Dattatreya and Rajiv Pratap Rudy, and some of the better performers among the Ministers of State have been elevated to Cabinet rank, including Nirmala Sitharaman, Piyush Goyal and Dharmendra Pradhan. Kalraj Mishra probably lost out because of the age factor, an indication that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is serious about the 75-year-rule. Four of the entrants are former civil servants, and two of them, Hardeep Singh Puri and Alphons Kannanthanam, are not even MPs. As Ministers with independent charge, their mandate will be to single-mindedly focus on results without having to worry about nurturing a constituency or reporting to a career politician. After her eventful stint in the Commerce Ministry, Ms. Sitharaman was rewarded with the Defence Ministry, making her only the second woman after Indira Gandhi to hold the portfolio. But the choices are also an indication of the small talent pool before Mr. Modi. At the time he was sworn in, he included in his team Arun Jaitley and Smriti Irani despite their having lost in the Lok Sabha election. Manohar Parrikar was asked to resign as Chief Minister of Goa to assume responsibility as Defence Minister, only to be sent back after the BJP all but lost Goa in the Assembly election this year. V.K. Singh, a former Army Chief who joined the BJP just before he was given the party ticket, was made Minister of State for External Affairs. Suresh Prabhu, who was sidelined in the Shiv Sena, was persuaded to join the BJP and given the important portfolio of Railways. And now, despite his offer to resign after a series of rail accidents, he was asked to wait and then made Minister for Commerce and Industry.

Of course, it will be far from the truth to say that nothing but performance has mattered. Ms. Irani, who was moved out of the Human Resource Development Ministry after a string of controversies, retains the key Information and Broadcasting portfolio. Uma Bharti was divested of her pet portfolio of River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation but got Drinking Water and Sanitation instead. The mercurial Ms. Bharti would have been a difficult person to keep out, and the change of portfolios is a political compromise. However, by choosing to ignore the claims of the BJP’s allies, and by making no attempt to correct imbalances in regional representation, Mr. Modi succeeded in creating the impression that he had nothing in mind other than picking the best person for each job. In neglecting political claims he actually sent the political signal he wanted to: that he is his own man and that he will have the team he wants.

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2021 12:49:07 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/perform-or-perish/article19615974.ece

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