Prime Minister Narendra Modi has selected the team that will govern the country along with him, and also allocated their portfolios. The choices he has made for the various ministries indicate the direction he is likely to take over at least the next couple of years. It is not just who is in, but also those left out that matter. His biggest constraint was the inability of former Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to continue in the job because of health reasons. He had the intellectual capacity to understand and act upon the complex demands of his ministry, and also the formidable ability to debate in Parliament. Being a lawyer of the Supreme Court and someone who has been at the centre of Indian politics for many years, he was able to present the government’s policies and facts in a way that none could counter. The present choice for the Finance Ministry, Nirmala Sitharaman, who has otherwise proved her worth, will find it hard to fill his shoes, particularly in the present challenging environment.
Sushma Swaraj also opted out (or gracefully accepted being dropped) and her place as Minister of External Affairs has been taken by Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, someone who worked under her and will ensure continuity, particularly with regard to the personal attention she paid to the difficulties of ordinary Indians abroad. For Jaishankar to have received such a tremendous jump from being a career diplomat to one of India’s top jobs indicates his performance must have been pretty spectacular to have caught the eye of as hard a taskmaster as Modi. Considering that he has occupied a major position that ought to have gone to one from the many senior politicians of the NDA, he will require to really shine to justify the pick.
All the speculation about Amit Shah becoming Finance Minister proved to be misguided, as he has been appointed to the crucial Home Ministry. This clearly indicates that some of Shah’s Machiavellian abilities will be used to firm up one of the most challenged aspects of governance, law and order, as well as deal with the threat posed by anti-national elements around the country. Former Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s shift to Defence indicates the high priority that will be given to the Forces with regard to modernisation and strategic preparedness.
The highly successful Nitin Gadkari continues as Minister of Road Transport and Highways, as well as of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises. The nation needs that the road network continues to be built with the same urgency it has over the past five years. However, it is worth noting that the PM has created a separate ministry, Jal Shakti, for water resources. It has obviously to do with concern for the Ganga and other rivers. Uttarakhand’s Dr Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ has got the prestigious Human Resources Ministry, which is an acknowledgement of the position the state holds in Modi’s eyes. Maneka Gandhi’s non-inclusion comes as a surprise, but she could become the Speaker of the Lok Sabha.