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Monday, May 20, 2024

Modi’s Reshuffle: an RT-PCR test


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In the first week of July 2021, Prime Minister Narendra Modi carried out perhaps what was the largest cabinet reshuffle in India’s history. He doesn’t do anything small, does he?

More than a reshuffle, it was a massive expansion. Cabinet ministers went up from 21 to 30, ministers of state with independent charge (“MoS I/C”) came down from nine to two, and ministers of state (“MoS”) went up from 23 to 45.

The overall second Modi ministry (“Modi 2.0”) grew from 53 to 77. Will the huge 45.3% expansion work?

Real Test = Performance Concludes in Results

I have already written two articles on the cabinet reshuffle. The first article was an analysis of the 12 ministers who were dropped. The second article was an analysis of the new inclusions in Modi 2.0 and their portfolios.

This article will analyse the ministers who have been promoted, as well as the changes in the portfolios of several ministers. In the next article (Part-4), I will analyse the overall new cabinet.

Modi’s Reshuffle: an RT-PCR test - largest cabinet reshuffle, Modi’s Reshuffle, RT-PCR test

As someone who has studied law but not really practiced it, Rijiju as the law & justice minister may prove to be a master move. India badly needs several judicial reforms, which I have written about in my No.1 bestseller Congress-Mukt Bharat but nothing was done on this front by successive law ministers since 1996, who were all (barring one or two) practising lawyers. Perhaps Rijiju will bring a fresh perspective to this and will be able to convince the Milords who have been the biggest hinderance in bringing such reforms. They may also feel less threatened by him.

Though Dharmendra Pradhan did very well as the petroleum and natural gas minister on most fronts, he was not so successful in negotiation crude oil import prices. As a civil servant, Hardeep Singh Puri has served in the ministries of external affairs as well as defence. From 1988 to 1991, he was the coordinator of the UNDP/UNCTAD project to help developing countries in multilateral trade negotiations. From May 2009 to February 2013, he was the Permanent Representative of India to the UN. He is expected to use his experience in international trade negotiations to help reduce India’s oil import bill, as domestic fuel prices will play a big role in the BJP’s prospects in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Puri’s promotion was also well deserved as he has done an excellent job in his earlier ministries. In recent months, he has also become the Modi government’s chief trouble-shooter with the media as well as on social media, especially as Javadekar failed in his role to counter all the negative publicity surrounding the second wave of Covid-19, and also the opposition to the Central Vista Project. It will be interesting to see whether this role will now stop.

Mansukh Lal Mandaviya had done very well as the MoS I/C of Ports, Shipping & Waterways. I had given him 8/10 in a recent article. As the Anti-Modi Brigade can’t find any concrete stuff to criticise his performance, they are making fun of his English. How childish.

Thakur should do a better job than Prakash Javadekar who was sacked as I&B minister. Thakur being given charge of youth affairs & sports also makes theoretical sense, as he is young (<47) and has been a cricket administrator for almost seventeen years, rising up to the highest position as president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in May 2016 until the Supreme Court sacked him in January 2017, in a controversial move that was not very popular.

India ranked 34th in the 2019 Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report of the World Economic Forum. We are the 25th most visited country by foreign tourists. Should the world’s 6th largest economy and 7th largest country by area be proud of these numbers? We have nice beaches, backwaters, wildlife sanctuaries, temples, world heritage sites, caves, other ancient monuments, but get only 1.26 foreign tourists per 100 residents, while Hong Kong gets 390, Austria 341, Greece 289, Singapore 251, Spain 177, the UAE 160, France 133, Italy 103, Malaysia 79, Thailand 55, Turkey 54, the UK 53, Mexico 32, Japan 25, the USA 24, and even Russia, Vietnam, and China get 17, 16 and 4.4, respectively. At a level of 3 foreign tourists per 100 residents, India will get ~2.4 crore more foreign tourists per year. As a foreign tourist spends ~$1710, this will enhance our income by a whopping $41 billion or ~₹3 lakh crore per year, grow our GDP by 2% and create ~67 lakh jobs. Prior to this reshuffle, the tourism as well as the culture ministries had Prahlad Singh Patel as the MoS I/C, and I had given him 0/10 in a recent article, as India under Modi has made very little progress in tourism compared to our potential. Patel was also MoS in the coal ministry. There were no other ministers in tourism or culture. Now, G Kishan Reddy from Hyderabad has been made the cabinet minister for tourism and for culture, and has been given two MoS in tourism (one each from the popular tourist states of Goa and Uttarakhand) as well as two MoS in culture. This is an excellent move by the PM. Maybe he read my article 😀.

I am not familiar with the work or achievements of Parshottam Rupala, therefore I will refrain from commenting on his promotion.

Modi’s Reshuffle: an RT-PCR test - largest cabinet reshuffle, Modi’s Reshuffle, RT-PCR test

It is clear from the above table that Modi has reduced the burden of most cabinet ministers who were handling multiple ministries.

As the textile ministry requires far lesser time than the heavyweight railways ministry, it is good that the PM has paved the way for Piyush Goyal to concentrate more on the commerce & industry ministry.

Narendra Singh Tomar has perhaps been punished for being unable to end the farmers’ protests. Apart from three ministries being taken away, the very important cooperative movement in the country, which was part of the agriculture ministry prior to the reshuffle, has been made a separate ministry and handed over to Modi’s No.2 Amit Shah.

Nitin Gadkari has been one of the best performing ministers in the Modi 1.0 as well as 2.0 governments. Taking away his second ministry from him was a harsh decision. I have advocated in my No.1 bestseller Congress-Mukt Bharat as well as a recent article that India should have one single TRANSPORT MINISTRY under Gadkari, with three separate MoS’s for Railways; Roads & Highways; and Ports, Shipping & Waterways. I have also argued that we don’t need a civil aviation ministry. Some believe that Gadkari has been punished for displaying prime ministerial ambitions, and Modi already has two possible successors in Amit Shah and Yogi Adityanath.

Modi has had problems with the skill development & entrepreneurship ministry since day one. During Modi 1.0, Sarbananda Sonowal was the MoS I/C for the first 5½ months. Then Rajiv Pratap Rudy was MoS I/C for 34 months. Dharmendra Pradhan came in as cabinet minister for the last 21 months of Modi 1.0, but Pradhan was also handling petroleum and natural gas. At the onset of Modi 2.0, Mahendra Nath Pandey was made the cabinet minister, with no other responsibility apart from this ministry. Now the ministry is back with Pradhan, who has also been made charge of education (some synergies there).

Smriti Irani has clearly been demoted, while Giriraj Singh has got a small promotion.

Modi’s Reshuffle: an RT-PCR test - largest cabinet reshuffle, Modi’s Reshuffle, RT-PCR test

Despite not being a cabinet minister, Dr Jitendra Singh is clearly one of the most powerful ministers in India. He has been MoS in the PMO since Modi became PM. By making him MoS I/C of science & technology, as well as earth sciences, the PM has signalled that these ministries are now directly under the PMO.

Rao Inderjit Singh, Rameshwar Teli, Raosaheb Danve, General VK Singh, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, Faggan Singh Kulaste, Krishan Pal Gurjar, and Ashwini Kumar Choubey have clearly been promoted; while Shripad Yesso Naik and Prahlad Singh Patel have been demoted. Meghwal has only seen one portfolio change which to me does not indicate a promotion or demotion.

The next and final article—Part 4 on the cabinet reshuffle—will paint a complete picture of what Prime Minister Narendra Modi hopes to achieve with this massive exercise which insiders say has taken him almost 45 days in planning and consultations.

Modi’s Reshuffle: an RT-PCR test - largest cabinet reshuffle, Modi’s Reshuffle, RT-PCR test

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