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MINIMAL: Ministry size and fresh ideas (so far)
Friends do count when list is made

New Delhi, May 26: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has kept his government small but the stated emphasis on minimalism appears to have rubbed off on ideas, too.

Modi’s council of ministers totals 46, including himself — far smaller than the 71 in UPA-II, mirroring one part of the BJP leader’s promise of “minimum government and maximum governance”.

The ministry has 23 cabinet berths, 10 ministers of state with independent charge and 12 ministers of state.

But the ministry does not match the expectations he raised during the election campaign.

The cabinet is packed with the usual suspects, including several members of Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government and a few who made the cut thanks to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s recommendations. Some of Modi’s favourites make it as ministers of state.

The sharpest contrast with the two UPA governments is the relative absence of dynasts. Not one person appears to have been chosen because they were related to somebody of consequence in the BJP.

Piyush Goyal, minister of state with independent charge, does happen to be the son of former party treasurer Ved Prakash Goyal, but the veteran passed away years ago.

Harsimrat Kaur Badal, daughter-in-law of Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, was picked by ally Akali Dal from its quota while Maneka Gandhi’s dynastic roots lie outside the BJP.

However, the inclusion of Muzaffarnagar MP Sanjeev Baliyan is a telling reminder of the significance that a polarised polity carries for the BJP. Baliyan was accused of inciting the Muzaffarnagar violence last September. The BJP’s support for the Hindu “victims” of the riots helped it consolidate the majority community’s support across the caste and sub-caste divide.

The BJP had touted the mandate as a vote for change and for a departure from conventional politics, but Modi’s choices reflect little of that spirit.

Most of the cabinet ministers are on the wrong side of 50 and few of them have distinguished themselves as parliamentarians barring the two former leaders of the Opposition, Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj, and exceptions like Ravi Shankar Prasad.

All three are carry-overs from the Vajpayee era, as are Rajnath Singh, M. Venkaiah Naidu, Ananth Kumar, Uma Bharati and Maneka Gandhi.

Smriti Irani, Rajya Sabha MP from Gujarat, is the youngest at 38 and another woman, Najma Heptullah, the oldest at 74.

how national is modi’s team
State-wise break-up of the Narendra Modi ministry

Uttar Pradesh

Ministers: 8

NDA tally: 73/80

  • Rajnath Singh: Cabinet
  • Uma Bharati: Cabinet
  • Maneka Gandhi: Cabinet
  • Kalraj Mishra: Cabinet
  • V.K. Singh: Minister of state (independent charge)
  • Santosh SinghGangwar: MoS (independent charge)
  • Manoj Sinha: MoS
  • Sanjeev Kumar Baliyan: MoS

Maharashtra

Ministers: 5

NDA tally: 42/48

  • Nitin Gadkari: Cabinet
  • Gopinath Munde: Cabinet
  • Anant Geete: Shiv Sena (BJP ally): Cabinet
  • Piyush Goyal: MoS independent charge (but Rajya Sabha)
  • Rao Saheb Danve: MoS

Bihar

Ministers: 5

NDA tally: 31/40

  • Ram Vilas Paswan: LJP(BJP ally): Cabinet
  • Radha Mohan Singh: Cabinet
  • Ravi Shankar Prasad: Cabinet (but RS)
  • Dharmendra Pradhan: MoS independent charge (but Rajya Sabha)
  • Upendra Kushwaha: (BJP ally): MoS

Madhya Pradesh

Ministers: 4

NDA tally: 27/29

  • Sushma Swaraj: Cabinet
  • Thawar Chand Gehlot: Cabinet
  • Narendra Singh Tomar: Cabinet
  • Najma Heptullah: Cabinet (but from RS)

Karnataka

Ministers: 4

NDA tally: 17/28

  • Ananth Kumar: Cabinet
  • Sadanand Gowda: Cabinet
  • Venkaiah Naidu: Cabinet (but from RS)
  • G.M. Siddeswara: MoS

Gujarat

Ministers: 3

NDA tally: 26/26

  • Smriti Irani: Cabinet (but from RS)
  • Arun Jaitley: Cabinet (but from RS)
  • Mansukh Vasava: MoS

*Narendra Modi not included

Haryana

Ministers: 2

NDA tally: 8/10

  • Rao Inderjit Singh: MoS (independent charge)
  • Kishan Pal: MoS

Rajasthan

Minister: 1

NDA tally: 25/25

  • Nihal Chand: MoS

Chhattisgarh

Minister: 1

NDA tally: 10/11

  • Vishnu Dev Sai: MoS

Punjab

Minister: 1

NDA tally: 6/13

  • Harsimrat Kaur Badal: SAD (BJP ally): Cabinet

Andhra Pradesh

Minister: 1

NDA tally: 19/42

  • Ashok Gajapati Raju: TDP (BJP ally): Cabinet

Assam

Minister: 1

NDA tally: 7/13

  • Sarbananda Sonwal: MoS (independent charge)

Goa

Minister: 1

NDA tally: 2/2

  • Sripad Naik: MoS (independent charge)

Tamil Nadu

Minister: 1

NDA tally: 2/39

  • P. Radhakrishnan: MoS

Jharkhand

Minister 1

NDA tally: 12/14

  • Sudarshan Bhagat: MoS

Delhi

Minister: 1

NDA tally: 7/7

  • Harsh Vardhan: Cabinet

Arunachal Pradesh

Minister: 1

NDA tally: 1/2

  • Kiran Rijiju: MoS

Jammu & Kashmir

Minister: 1

NDA tally: 3/6

  • Jitendra Singh: MoS (independent charge)

Odisha

Minister: 1

NDA tally: 1/21

  • Jual Oram: Cabinet

*Two ministers — Prakash Javadekar and Nirmala Sitharaman — are not members of either the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha

If the ministry reflects any change, it does so in a more hackneyed sense. With Uttar Pradesh and Bihar (and Maharashtra) having voted overwhelmingly for the BJP, the heartland has returned to dominate the government after a stint in the backseat during UPA rule.

Uttar Pradesh has eight ministers, Bihar has five, of whom two are from the allies: Ram Vilas Paswan from the Lok Janshakti Party and Upendra Kushwaha from the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party.

A third, Dharmendra Pradhan, is from Odisha but was elected to the Rajya Sabha from Bihar and, as a party general secretary, was given charge of Bihar affairs. Prasad and Radha Mohan Singh complete the Bihar list.

Maharashtra, headed for Assembly elections in September, has got two cabinet ministers in Nitin Gadkari and Gopinath Munde. The arch-rivals’ joint presence is expected to balance the power scales.

The biggest anomaly is the near-absence of Rajasthan whose chief minister, Vasundhara Raje, had ensured the BJP won all the 25 Lok Sabha seats from the state. Just one MP, Nihal Chand, has made the cut — that too as a junior minister.

Rajasthan BJP sources said that state-level infighting had stymied the possibility of a consensus over a “big name” from the state.

It seems Vasundhara had recommended four candidates, including her son and Jhalawar MP Dushyant Singh, Nihal Chand, Ram Narain Dudi (Rajya Sabha member) and Olympian Rajyavardhan Rathore.

State BJP sources claimed they had been given to understand that Rajasthan would get “more than its share” when there is an expansion. “There are no elections in the near future in Rajasthan, so why the hurry?” a party official asked.

Uttar Pradesh too goes to the polls only in 2017. But sources stressed that had the state been given the cold shoulder, the new MPs might have kicked up a storm.

Amit Shah, who crafted the Uttar Pradesh victory and is Modi’s closest political confidant, apparently impressed on him the need to give the heartland state a “big share”.

Modi has tried to make south India happy too. Barring Karnataka, the BJP does not have much of a base in the region.

Karnataka’s reward for backing the BJP again after ousting it in last year’s Assembly polls is three cabinet posts: for D.V. Sadananda Gowda, Ananth Kumar and Venkaiah Naidu (an Andhra Pradesh native who is a Rajya Sabha MP from Karnataka). G.M. Siddeswara has become a junior minister.

The party’s lone MP from Tamil Nadu, Pon Radhakrishnan, has been sworn in as a junior minister.

Modi is expected to announce the portfolios early tomorrow morning, if not late tonight.

Jaitley, his closest ally, could get two heavy-duty ministries, finance and defence. If that happens, he will effectively be the number two in the cabinet. Rajnath is tipped to be the home minister and Sushma the external affairs minister.

Jaitley’s critics had thought he had blown his chances when he lost his debut Lok Sabha election from Amritsar, but eventually his two-decade-old relation of trust with Modi stood him in good stead.

Some sources mentioned other probable allocations with the rider that nothing was final till the formal announcement was made: Gadkari (roads and highways; shipping), Sadananda Gowda (railways), Ananth Kumar (chemicals and fertilisers), and Prasad (law and justice; communications). Uma, campaigning for the Ganga’s purification for years, could get water resources.

Venkaiah is expected to bag urban development and parliamentary affairs, which is unconventional because he is a Rajya Sabha MP. Parliamentary affairs has traditionally gone to a member of the lower House, with its demands of intricate floor management and outreaches to the Opposition.

Smriti is expected to get human resource development. Her entry as cabinet minister at the first shot has aroused wonder how she always turned a drawback into an advantage.

She had joined the BJP in 2004, courtesy the late Pramod Mahajan, confronted Modi once and then made up.

The ‘independents’

In the second rung — of ministers with independent charge — Modi and Jaitley have secured places for favourites such as Goyal, Nirmala Sitharaman (despite her not being an MP), Prakash Javadekar and Pradhan. They have been placed on a par with veterans Santosh Gangwar and Sripad Naik.

Nirmala may get commerce while Javadekar may bag environment as well as information and broadcasting. Pradhan is likely to be oil minister and Goyal the minister for power and coal.

Nirmala and Javadekar, who are not MPs, will have to find themselves an upper House seat within the next six months. There are vacancies in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, where the BJP is comfortably placed to elect one member each.

Harsh Vardhan, the Delhi MP who defeated Kapil Sibal from Chandni Chowk, is expected to get health and family welfare. He may get a “strong” junior minister because he will be pressed into service for the Delhi Assembly elections.

Rao Inderjit, the Gurgaon MP who defected from the Congress just before the election, is expected to have independent charge of statistics and planning while assisting Jaitley in defence.

General V.K. Singh will possibly get independent charge of the Northeast while helping Sushma in the external affairs ministry.

 

ENTER, THE PM

Every new government deserves a honeymoon phase. But some names in the Modi ministry evoked a sense of deja vu. Some of the intriguing takeaways from the swearing-in ceremony follow

Elections, what elections?

Two new ministers — Arun Jaitley and Smriti Irani — have lost the popular elections this time. The BJP had attacked the UPA for making Shivraj Patil the home minister even after he lost the 2004 election.

Besides, two ministers —

Nirmala Sitharaman and Prakash Javadekar — are not members of either the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha. Non-elected members can be appointed but that option is used to bring in super-talent from outside, not from the party

Win not enough: Three women made their mark over the past few years by batting for the BJP in television studios. They were Smriti Irani, Nirmala Sitharaman and Meenakshi Lekhi. The first lost a Lok Sabha election and got cabinet rank. The second is not a member of either House and has been made minister with independent charge.

The third won the prestigious New Delhi seat and has got nothing. Getting elected by the people does not seem to add to a CV; proximity to the leader does

Talent non-hunt: If Modi does not think Lok Sabha MPs have a special right to be part of the government and prefers talent to winnability, he could have used this opportunity to get experts into the ministry. But there were no surprises, no indication of “new and bold thinking” in the selection of ministers

RS role: Manmohan Singh was constantly criticised for remaining a Rajya Sabha member and not contesting elections. The Modi government has picked eight ministers from the Rajya Sabha — or 17 per cent of his ministry. Thirteen (or 18 per cent) of the 71 ministers of UPA-II were from the upper House. Is that such a big difference?

Desert-ed: Rajasthan delivered all 25 LS seats to the BJP. Its reward? One solitary minister of state with independent charge

Himalayan oversight: Uttar Pradesh, the land through which much of the Ganga flows, has got the lion’s share of ministries, perhaps since the 80-seat state elected 73 NDA candidates. But the Himalayas, equally holy for religious Hindus but without communal politics, was left in the cold. The two Himalayan states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh were swept by the BJP wave. The party won all five seats in Uttarakhand and all four in Himachal. Yet, not a single representative from either state has made it to Modi’s debut team. This despite the fact that one of Vajpayee’s best performing ministers, B.C. Khanduri, won again from Pauri Garhwal in Uttarakhand this time, and the young Anurag Thakur has made a mark in Himachal for a while

Bengal go-by: Bengal was considered the sunrise state for the BJP, which won two seats and increased the vote share. With Assembly elections less than two years away, representation from Bengal would have given a boost to the party

The big test: Going by what TV channels were flashing through the day, not too many drastic changes are being planned in the ministries. But Modi has a night to sleep over it — and perhaps spring a surprise.

If Nehru had his rose, Modi has his tricolour pin

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