Key Ministers In Modi's New CabinetThe Modi 2.0 cabinet has a lot of surprises. Laying all speculations to rest, Amit Shah is part of the cabinet. Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, J P Nadda, Suresh Prabhu, Maneka Gandhi, Jayant Sinha and Rajyavardhan Rathore, among many others, have been left out, while former foreign secretary S Jaishankar was a surprise pick. Prime Minister Modi has replaced nearly 40 percent of his previous ministry. Another surprise was no representative from key Bihar ally, the Janata Dal (United) of Nitish Kumar. Negotiations with Kumar supposedly failed as he did not want a token representation of one cabinet minister. His logic was that if Ram Vilas Paswan could get one berth with 6 MPs, JD(U) deserved more as it had 16 MPs. It seems that both parties have decided to take up the matter at a later date and not spoil the august occasion of the swearing-in.(JD(U) had demanded Railways and one additional ministry. Giving Piyush Goyal charge of Railways, in addition to Commerce & Industry, points to the fact that it has been kept for the ally, to be given when an understanding is reached)
By Sunil Garodia
The choice of portfolios was also surprising. There was a buzz in town that since Arun Jaitley had opted out, the finance portfolio would be allotted to Amit Shah as that would not disturb the earlier equations. But the Modi-Shah team had other ideas. Shah was given the Home portfolio and Rajnath Singh was shifted to Defence. But the biggest surprise was Nirmala Sitharaman in the Finance ministry. Everyone expected Shah to get the key ministry, failing which the next choice was Piyush Goyal. Sitharamans appointment was not liked by the markets as the Sensex tanked nearly 120 points. But it is the prerogative of the Prime Minister to allot portfolios and having held the charge of Commerce and Industry and Defence previously, one is sure Sitharaman will successfully execute the policies of the government.
Amit Shah as Home minister is an interesting choice and so is Rajnath Singh as Defence minister. The defence ministry is always open to charges of corruption. Appointing one of the cleanest politicians around to take charge of the ministry at a time when Modi is thinking of modernizing the armed forces is a wise and prudent decision. Amit Shah in the Home ministry is another matter altogether. Given his frequent tiffs with non-BJP chief ministers in the past, when he was the president of the BJP, he starts at a disadvantage. Rajnath Singh as Home minister was tough but his words were not misunderstood or taken to heart as he has cordial relations with politicians across the spectrum. The same cannot be said of Shah. Anything he says or does will often be misunderstood or protested against because of his past record. But Shah is too astute a politician to continue with his BJP president persona in his new job. Still, the onus will be on him to convince others of his good intentions.
The cabinet is a mix of experience and youth and there are many first-timers. The Prime Minister seems to have given out a signal that while importance will be given to a persons political standing, laggards will not be tolerated. Apart from Sitharaman in Finance, Piyush Goyal has been given Railways and Commerce and Industry, Narendra Singh Tomar has been allotted Agriculture and S Jaishankar the External Affairs ministry. The attention of the nation will be focused on these four as the economy needs to be revived fast, the agriculture sector needs an urgent boost, a huge number of jobs have to be created, trade wars across the world will demand expert attention and relations with China and Pakistan will need a nudge in the positive direction. Sitharaman, Goyal, Tomar and Jaishankar have their work cut out from day one.