Trust PM Narendra Modi to keep pulling surprises out of his hat to repeatedly outflank his adversaries! This is always done through well considered steps and understanding of the outcomes required while maintaining the strictest secrecy, thereby having a more powerful impact. The ministerial rejig at the Centre on Wednesday, as most commentators declared, was not only a complete overhaul, but also guided by electoral as well as competency criteria. Modi has been uncompromising in this regard, knowing full well that the failure to have the best team possible will have repercussions in the soon to be held elections in UP, Uttarakhand, etc.
Uttarakhand has, of course, suffered a blow with Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ having to resign for ‘health’ reasons and the state will not be fully compensated through the inclusion of Ajay Bhatt as Minister of State. Modi has dismissed those heading the important Education and Health Ministries, and their deputies, revealing the high standards he has set for his colleagues and himself. It must not be forgotten that Dr Harsh Vardhan led the Health Ministry at a time when the nation faced two waves of the most unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic. Many would think this was quite unfair, particularly as Health is primarily a state subject.
Importantly, those who have performed well have been promoted, the message being that upward mobility is possible in the team. The Council of Ministers will have a younger, more dynamic profile, thereby presenting a more acceptable profile to India’s youth. Very significantly, the new ministers also reflect the BJP’s effort to consolidate electoral support among relatively marginalised sections of society that are not part of the regional community and caste based parties. This ‘empowerment’ should enthuse those outside the traditional urban base of the party, such as the SCs, STs and OBCs, as well as those hailing from the North East. All of this has been done before the Monsoon Session of Parliament, so that the new team can earn its spurs.
Of the 77 strong Council of Ministers, there will now be 43 new appointees, providing the government fresh energy and the desire to succeed. Every leader, be it in the political, corporate or social sector needs to impartially reward performance and remove the laggards. It is painful but necessary. Hopefully, similar culling will be done of legislators in Uttarakhand at the time of the next elections, as many have performed miserably, both, in the House and in their constituencies.