Execute or be executed: What Modi's cabinet reshuffle means for economic revival

The signal that Modi seems to be sending to his cabinet members is that speed of execution is important

K Yatish Rajawat November 10, 2014 08:10:23 IST
Execute or be executed: What Modi's cabinet reshuffle means for economic revival

Five months at the helm is enough time to understand for a leader what his team lacks or have. Typically it should not take a leader very long to see the gaps in execution. Modi has decided to expand the cabinet with 3 IITians, one Olympic gold medallist, a CA topper and 16 people who claim success as politicians.

As is now a norm with Modi, almost without any leaks or speculation, the expansion on Sunday was quickly followed by reshuffle. The signal that Modi seems to be sending to his cabinet members is that speed of execution is important.

What does Modi need at this stage, there are ministries that need a push and sectors that are of priorities. Railways, power, telecom, urbanization, defence, agriculture and even Finance need energy and administrative push.

These ministries are struggling not in terms of meeting their day to day functioning but also in terms of meeting the reform agenda set by the BJP in its manifesto.

Suresh Prabhu has got Railways and Sadanand Gowda has been moved to the law ministry. This is the biggest shift at the cabinet level and seems to have come because of the need for execution in this Ministry. The railways has already embarked on a major exercise to split itself into two, the largest organization in the country as my earlier article pointed out.

The railways needs administrative experience and financial acumen. As an ex-banker Prabhu has the financial skills and his restructuring skills will be tested to the core. Currently, the railways is not able to increase its capacity a dire need for the country from all points of view.

It may not be a very exciting ministry but it is a very important one. Gowda's approach in terms of appointing a committee for execution seems to have not gone well with the PM.

Manohar Parrikar has got Defence, something that he was quite vocal about as soon as his name popped up. Defence needs somebody who can plan, prepare and negotiate with foreign defence supplier to give the local manufacturing a boost. Not just hand out a large number deals to foreign companies.

It is also the most corrupt or corruptible ministry as it deals with the largest purchase budget in the government. So it does not need a deal maker at the top but somebody who can work and structure each and every contract with minute details so that manufacturing can happen.

It can become the job creation engine if it works toward building the manufacturing engine. This is possible if we ask the right questions and structure the deals properly as my earlier article pointed out.

Harsh Vardhan lost his health portflolio and has been replaced by Jagat Prakash Nadda. Dr Vardhan gets Science and Technology and Earth Sciences, a minor portfolio, maybe keeping in mind the Delhi election or he has burnt his bridges with Modi in handling the AIIMS issue.

Rajiv Pratap Rudy has been given skill development & entrepreneurship (independent charge) along with parliamentary affairs. This is one Ministry that has been floundering with the UPA-2 appointed technocrats still running key institutions in the ministry even after five months of the new government taking charge.

Rudy has his task cut out as one of the core portion of the manufacturing revival is skills but successive ministers have not really understood this challenge. Skill development was most focused on just white collar jobs and it has not given the attention to skills needed in the manufacturing sector. This can be job driver if Rudy spends more time on it than hobnobbing inside the Parliamentary affairs.

Rao Inderjit Singh's portfolio of statistics and programme implementation has been given to General V K Singh. The north-east ministry has been taken away from VK Singh and added to Dr Jitendra Singh's portfolio. The north-east ministry now does not have a minister in charge. Rao Inderjit now has planning (with independent charge) and defence. Planning has technically the now defunct planning commission under it.

Prakash Javadekar has been divested of information and broadcasting is a surprising move, this key ministry has been moved to Arun Jaitley. Javadekar has been shifted to environment, forest and climate change (with independent charge). While Rajvardhan Singh Rathore is inducted into the information and broadcast as a minister of state, he has not been given an independent charge.

This is Rathore's first appointment as a politician and the Prime Minister seems to be testing his abilities as an administrator.

It is most likely that it will be parked with Jaitley until Rathore proves himself or a more suitable candidate is found to head it. Jaitley already has his plateful with challenges: GST is expected to be introduced in the winter session.

It is a legislative issue and needs a consistent push with the states not just at the bureaucratic level but also at the political level. The last government failed to convince states about it as they did not build the political quid pro quo. It even failed in convincing the states about the tax reform's impact on their budgets. Delhi media handles the Finance Minister with a rare sensitivity.

Jayant Sinha has been inducted into the Ministry as a minister of state and it will now be upto Jaitley will he use him effectively or sideline him as is the norm.

Birendra Singh has been given rural development continuing the stereotype that a Jat leader from Haryana he would understand rural affairs the best. The government has already curtailed the powers of this ministry by reducing the spend on the MNREGA and now it has very little budget to do anything worthwhile.

Mahesh Sharma a first time minister at the center has got a clear mandate Culture (Independent Charge), Tourism (Independent Charge) and Civil Aviation. Dr Sharma owns Kailash Hospitals in the outskirts of Delhi in Noida and is seen as a strong ideologue by the BJP, therefore giving him the culture ministry is an important sign of change ahead.

The swish set in of culturati in Delhi that has long decided what is right or wrong is quaking and shaking in anticipation of the changes ahead.

Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, the major muslim face in the BJP, has finally been inducted in and given minority affairs and parliamentary affairs. Though, neither of these portfolios have been given with independent charges limiting his impact.

Lalu Prasad's former aide and now BJP's MP Ram Kripal Yadav has been given drinking water and sanitation. The sole Bhumihar representative from Bihar Giriraj Singh, has been inducted to balance the caste, communal and regional equations. Giriraj singh has been given Micro, small and medium enterprises - a ministry which is not considered very important but has a huge impact in terms of employment.

The MSME segment is the largest employer in the country and one that needs the most focus and attention. It neither gets the PM attention nor does it gets visionary Ministers but if real economy has to be fired up this is the sector that needs the maximum push.

Yatish Rajawat is a senior journalist based in Delhi, he tweets at @yatishrajawat

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