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Will Modi’s 45% Expansion Deliver?

By Amit Bagaria

As of July 5, excluding Narendra Modi himself, the second Modi ministry (“Modi 2.0”) comprised 53 ministers, including 21 cabinet ministers, nine ministers of state with independent charge (“MoS I/C”), and 23 ministers of state (“MoS”). 

Today, the ministry has 77 ministers, including 30 cabinet ministers, two MoS I/C, and 45 MoS. That’s a huge 45.3% growth in Modi’s “minimum government”. Was it needed? Will 77 ministers deliver 45.3% better results than the earlier 54? These questions will only be answered over the next several months, or a couple of years.

In my previous article on this massive cabinet reshuffle, I have already commented on the 12 ministers who have been dropped. This article will analyze the new ministers and their portfolios. The next article will analyze the ministers who have been promoted and their new portfolios, the ministers whose ‘burden has been reduced’ (read as demoted), and the ministers who have neither been promoted nor demoted, but whose portfolios have been changed.

The average age of the 36 new ministers is 55.84 years. The average age of the 12 ministers who have been dropped is 64.93 years. Therefore, the average age of the 77 ministers comes down by 16 years, which is an excellent move by Modi.

There are seven women amongst the 36 new ministers. That’s a net addition of seven women, taking up the overall strength of women to 11. During Modi’s first term (“Modi 1.0”), there were a maximum of nine women ministers at any given time. During the 10 years of the Sonia Gandhi-controlled UPA regime when Dr Manmohan Singh was PM, there were no more than seven women ministers at any given time. The same was the case with the first BJP-led NDA government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Though I’ve not done research prior to 1998, I’m guessing this is the highest representation for women in any Central Government in India’s 74-year history.

With the addition of Ashwini Vaishnaw and RCP Singh, Modi now has eight former civil servants / army officers in his ministry. Six ministers have Ph.D. degrees and 14 have law degrees.

Here is a Table which gives their names, ministries, their age, the states they belong to, and most importantly, a rating out of 10. I will explain my reasoning for each of the ratings.

 Ashwini Vaishnaw graduated with a gold medal in electronic and communications engineering and did M.Tech from IIT Kanpur, before getting an all-India 27th rank in the IAS exam. He then did an MBA from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, USA, one of the top three ‘B-schools’ in the world. He was deputy secretary in the PMO of Vajpayee, where he contributed to creating the public-private-partnership framework for infrastructure projects. In 2004, after the NDA lost the election, Vaishnav was appointed as Vajpayee’s private secretary. From 2006 to 2008, he was deputy chairman of Mormugao Port Trust, Goa. Apart from being an entrepreneur, he was also the Managing Director at GE Transportation and the Vice President (Locomotives) & Head (Urban Infrastructure Strategy) at Siemens.

Bhupender Yadav has probably served as a chairman or member of more parliamentary committees in his nine years as an MP than anyone else. He also has excellent party organization and election management skills.

Narayan Rane was a Maharashtra minister for a total of almost 10 years, and the state’s CM for 8½ months. He therefore has rich administrative experience. However, as he has switched parties several times and his name has been involved in some scams, I only gave him 5/10.

Dr Virendra Kumar Khatik, Ph.D., is a 7-term Lok Sabha MP and was a MoS for 21 months during Modi 1.0. Since Modi has taken him back and this time in full cabinet rank, I am giving him 7/10 just based on the PM’s wisdom.

Sarbanada Sonowal was a MoS I/C for the first two years of Modi 1.0, post which he was sent to Assam as CM. He recently completed a fairly successful 5-year term and returns to the Central Government.

Ram Chandra Prasad Singh (RCP Singh) is a former IAS officer who also has a Masters degree in international relations from JNU. He has been a Rajya Sabha MP since July 2010, is the National President of JD(U) and considered Nitish Kumar’s right-hand man. From July 2004 to December 2005, he was Additional CEO, Greater Noida Authority. From December 2005 to May 2010, he was Principal Secretary to Nitish Kumar, then CM of Bihar. From March 2011 to October 2013, Singh was a member of the JPC which investigated the UPA’s alleged 2G spectrum scam. He has also been a chairman or member of many other parliamentary committees.

Pashupati Kumar Paras became the president of Bihar’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJSP) just 20 days back by overthrowing his nephew Chirag Paswan in a coup. He was a Bihar minister from July 2017 to May 2019 and is a first-term Lok Sabha MP. The only reason he has been included is because the LJSP, with four Lok Sabha MPs, is BJP’s second largest ally after Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) which has 10 MPs. He thus gets only 3/10.

Jyotiraditya Scindia must have wanted the Ministry of Civil Aviation as his father held it from 1991 to 1993. This ministry does not need a full-time cabinet minister. Hardeep Singh Puri was doing a good job as MoS I/C since May 2019 despite having additional responsibilities as MoS I/C of Housing and Urban Affairs and MoS Commerce & Industry, both far more important ministries. Scindia should have gotten a more deserving portfolio like tourism or communications, electronics & IT. He gets 4/10 not for his abilities but for a wrong choice of ministry by the PM.

Dr Rajkumar Ranjan Singh, Ph.D. is a published author and researcher who was a professor for almost 40 years. Though he is probably suitable as MoS Education, how he qualifies as being one of the three MoS in the external affairs ministry baffles me.

Meenakshi Lekhi has practised law in various courts, including several tribunals, the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court. She is a very active parliamentarian and activist and a suave speaker and will be an asset to both the ministries, which are appropriate for her.

Ajay Bhatt was a 1-term MLA in UP and then a 2-term MLA in Uttarakhand after the state was carved out of UP. He held several ministerial portfolios in Uttarakhand and was also Leader of the Opposition for five years. One MoS Tourism each from Goa and Uttarakhand (both states with huge tourism potential) is a great idea, but how does Bhatt fit in the defence ministry?

Rajeev Chandrasekhar studied electrical engineering at Manipal and did a Masters in Computer Science from Illinois Institute of Technology, USA. He was handpicked to work at Intel and was part of the architectural team that designed the i486 processor. On returning to India, he became part of his father-in-law’s BPL Group, then one of India’s leading consumer electronics companies. In 1994, Chandrasekhar founded BPL Mobile, which became big with licenses in places such as Mumbai. In July 2005, he sold his 64% stake in BPL Mobile to Essar Group for $1.1 billion. He then founded Jupiter Capital which currently has estimated investments and managed assets of about ₹8000 crores in technology, media, hospitality, and entertainment businesses, including Suvarna News, Asianet, Indigo 91.9 FM, and Republic TV; technology firm Axiscades and defence firm Indian Aero Ventures. He has been a Rajya Sabha MP since April 2006. An apt choice in both ministries.

Darshana Jardosh is a businessperson and third-term Lok Sabha MP. Although I don’t have doubts about the textiles ministry, I’m not sure how well she will do in the railway ministry.

Pankaj Choudhary is a 6-term Lok Sabha MP. With a non-specialist (Nirmala Sitharaman) as a cabinet minister, I don’t agree with the PM’s choice of another non-specialist as MoS in the finance ministry. I’ve given 3/10 only because of his parliamentary experience.

Dr. Bhagwat Karad is a surgeon who owns a couple of hospitals and pharma companies, and has stakes in some colleges and schools. Does that qualify him to help manage a much-damaged $2.8 billion economy which is dreaming of becoming a $5 billion economy in 4-5 years?

Nisith Pramanik is a first-term Lok Sabha MP who switched from Mamata’s Trinamool Congress to the BJP just before the 2019 elections. Does that qualify him to be part of the all-important home ministry? BTW, he’s the youngest of the lot.

Dr (Prof) SP Singh Baghel from Agra (UP) was elected as a Samajwadi Party Lok Sabha MP in 1998, 1999, and 2004. He switched to BSP and lost the 2009 election, but got elected to the Rajya Sabha in July 2010. He then lost the Rajya Sabha election in March 2014, and switched to the BJP soon thereafter. In March 2017, he won the UP assembly election on a BJP ticket and became a cabinet minister in the Yogi Adityanath government. He won the 2019 Lok Sabha election  on a BJP ticket. Dr Baghel  is ‘armed’ with four degrees, including M.A. (History), M.Sc. (Military Science), LL.B., and a Ph.D. He is an Associate Professor, Defence Studies, at Agra College. Why law & justice, and not defence?

Anupriya Patel is the sole Lok Sabha MP of the Apna Dal (Sonelal) party. From March 2012 to May 2014, she was an MLA in UP. In 2014, she got elected as a Lok Sabha MP and won again in 2019. She was MoS in the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare from July 2016 till the end of Modi’s first term in May 2019 but was left out from Modi 2.0, for reasons unknown. I wrote in my bestseller Congress-Mukt Bharat as well as a recent article on the topic of a cabinet reshuffle that she should be brought back. However, I’m not sure if the commerce & industry portfolio is appropriate for her skills—hence 6/10.

Ajay Kumar Mishra was an MLA in UP from March 2012 to May 2014. He then got elected as a Lok Sabha MP and won again in 2019. With no administrative experience even at the state level, what makes him suitable for the all-important home ministry?

Bhagwanth Khuba is a second-term Lok Sabha MP with no administrative experience but has been made MoS in two ministries. While senior cabinet minister DV Sadananda Gowda from Karnataka has been sacked, four people from the state have been made MoS, Is this to placate Karnataka CM Yediyurappa who is in trouble in the state?

Dr. Bharati Pawar, although a practising doctor, is a first-time MP and a new entrant into the BJP. Why has she been awarded?

Shobha Karandlaje is a second-term Lok Sabha MP and is a very close associate of Karnataka CM Yediyurappa. She has been a cabinet minister in Karnataka for 41 months. Her portfolios included rural development & panchayat raj, which should come in handy in her new role.

Bishweswar Tudu has been associated with RSS-affiliated organizations since his childhood and is a tribal. Enough said?

Bhanu Pratap Singh Verma is a 5-term Lok Sabha MP and was an MLA in UP before that. He has been a member of several parliamentary committees over the years.

Dr Mahendra Munjapara is a Physician/Cardiologist and an Assistant Profession of Medicine. He has little to do with the AYUSH systems of medicine. He is also a first-term MP. And why pick a man as MoS for Women & Child Development, after sacking a woman from the post?

Dr Loganathan Murugan, LL.B, Ph.D, is a practising advocate at the Madras High Court, and is not even an MP. In March 2020, he was made chief of the BJP Tamil Nadu unit. As I&B minister, won’t he have to speak in Hindi with many news channels and publications? Can he manage? He’s probably been picked only with the intent to make some inroads into a state that has been really difficult for the BJP to make any inroads into.

BL Verma has only been a Rajya Sabha MP for seven months. And what does he know about the North East Region, to be able to develop it?

Dr Subhas Sarkar is a gynaecologist who has overseen the delivery of 33,000 babies in 28 years. How will he deliver good education to 330 million grown-up babies?

Annpurna Devi was an MLA for 16 years, first in Bihar, and then in Jharkhand when it was carved out from Bihar. In the Jharkhand government, she was a MoS and then a cabinet minister. She became a Lok Sabha MP in 2019. Though she is probably a good ministerial candidate, what are her qualifications to handle the important education portfolio?

Pratima Bhoumik is a social worker and a first-term Lok Sabha MP. It is good that the first ever union minister from Tripura will be involved in social justice & empowerment.

Abbaiah Narayanaswamy makes up the four new inductees from Karnataka. He is a 4-term MLA and was a cabinet minister in the state for about three years. He is a first-term Lok Sabha MP. 

Shantanu Thakur is the grandson of ‘Boro Ma’, the matriarch of the three crore strong Matua (SC) community in West Bengal, a very important vote bank for the BJP. Therefore, how does it matter if he doesn’t understand the P, S, or W of Ports, Shipping & Waterways?

Kapil Moreshwar Patil is a second-term Lok Sabha MP. He has been a Panch and a Sarpanch and has been involved in Panchayat Raj for 24 years in various capacities.

Devusinh Chauhan is a second-term Lok Sabha MP and was a 2-term MLA in Gujarat before that. From 1989 to 2002, he worked as an engineer with All India Radio. A lot has changed in 19 years. Is he suitable to be today’s communications minister?

Thomas Barla is a Class IX pass Christian. Does that qualify for him to be a minister? Does the minority affairs ministry need two ministers?

The eight new ministers get an average of 6.25/10. Overall, the 36 new ministers score an average of 5.03. But that’s my opinion. Obviously, the PM knows better!

 

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