Finally, we have a carefully calibrated council of ministers. It seems clear that a strong influence of the Congress party and of its leadership has prevailed, as it should, while defining priorities in the government. This has led to the selection of future leaders — cabinet ministers as well as ministers of state — to key ministries, signalling that a ‘shadow cabinet’ will now learn the ropes of ‘taking charge’ after the general election if the Congress were to lead a government at the Centre again. That is the signal for ordinary people like us, who watch the goings-on in the corridors of power in Delhi. These changes should have happened three years ago. That would have allowed for better and more proactive policies and governance. The energy of those in their late thirties, forties and fifties, has far greater vitality than that of the ageing leaders who have clung on to their gaddis.
In the past, the MoS in most ministries was never given a free-run by the cabinet minister for a variety of reasons. In some cases, they were not trusted and got thrown into the deep end with a target and strict orders to deliver, often because of the insecurity of the senior, who did not want to be shown up as lacking in acumen. On this occasion, some key ministries have unusual faces. M.M. Pallam Raju and his ministers of state are intellectually agile men from the ‘new generation’ that assesses things differently. Without a mantri breathing down their necks or stalling enterprise, energy, innovative partnerships and structures, Jyotiraditya Scindia, who has independent charge of power, and Sachin Pilot — in charge of corporate affairs — are bound to think and act out of the box now that they have been given an opportunity to make their mark.
The ministers of state in home and defence ministries are young politicians from Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. They have been hand-picked, I would assume, to garner practical experience and understand the nuances of governance in key ministries to help them prepare for future responsibilities. That is how it should be. The choice of Pawan Kumar Bansal for the railways was unusual and positive, because this ministry is always given to an alliance partner and, more often than not, is neglected beyond imagination. The last time India had a railways minister with commitment, foresight and creative energy was when Madhavrao Scindia held the reins. Manish Tewari, in charge of information and broadcasting, is a great choice. We need a person from the new generation that comprehends the importance of connectivity to energize and, if necessary, overhaul this ministry.
Some of those who were left out, or who had to relinquish their charge and return to party work, were critical of the fresh faces. One man resigned because D. Purandeswari was retained as a MoS in commerce and industry. Others have moved on silently and resigned themselves to their new responsibilities. Change is in the air, responsibilities have shifted and a signal has gone out from the party that the leadership is in transition. Thankfully, the ‘return of Shivraj Patil’ remained a rumour. Salman Khurshid will make for a strong and highly intelligent leader. Hopefully, he will reinvent a critical ministry that appears to be in disarray.
And now we look forward to a revamp of strategy within the Congress. It needs new office-bearers with the clout to revitalize the organization, turning it into a new world political entity that will be energized by the challenges it faces today. If, for argument’s sake, Rahul Gandhi takes over the Congress, India will think afresh and vote for change. India is hungry for straight talk and simple action as it has had enough of ageing, dull leaders.