Narendra Modi's Cabinet reshuffle: Perform or perish, is PM's message as BJP's old guard gives way to bureaucrats

On Sunday, nine new members, including four senior bureaucrats and BJP leaders from poll-bound states were inducted into Union Council of Ministers. Four ministers — Dharmendra Pradhan, Piyush Goyal, Nirmala Sitharaman and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi — were elevated to Narendra Modi's Cabinet.

File image of Narendra Modi. PTI

File image of Narendra Modi. PTI

India Today reported that Modi has decided to welcome men with "domain expertise" and is seemingly focussing on improving its delivery mechanism. The first Cabinet comprised hardcore politicians who were perhaps ill-suited to their portfolios, however, three years later, Modi is out of elbow room and knows he and his government must perform or perish, the report stated.

According to a report in The Hindu Business Line, the latest and the third reshuffle by Modi seems to be an attempt to show that he values performance and delivery above political considerations such as caste and politics.

The rejig was meant to convey that Modi was only interested in performance, a message showcased by the BJP on social media and bolstered by the induction of bureaucrats, younger ministers and the resignation of non-performers such as Rajiv Pratap Rudy and Faggan Singh Kulaste, according to the report.

According to a report in Hindustan Times, the elevation of Sitharaman and Pradhan and the induction of KJ Alphons into the Council of Ministers is expected to boost the BJP's chances in their home states of Tamil Nadu, Odisha and Kerala. Modi also sent a message by not shying away from discarding half-a-dozen non-performers and cutting down to size others such as Uma Bharti and Vijay Goel, according to the report.

Gyan Varma, writing for Livemint, stated that Naqvi's elevation is significant because he is the only Muslim leader in the Cabinet and handles the government's minority affairs. Varma noted that Naqvi is also part of  the government’s Rajya Sabha plan where the ruling NDA is in a minority.

This Firstpost article notes that none of the six minsters sidelined — Kajraj Mishra, Rajeev Pratap Rudi, Bandaru Dattatreya, Fagan Singh Kulaste, Sanjeev Baliyan and Mahendra Pandey — were bureaucrats or technocrats. They all had made a career in politics in the BJP or the Sangh Parivar. Prabhu a chartered accountant by training is shifted to another ministry.

According to this Firstpost article, the induction of four retired bureaucrats, two of them not even MPs, among nine new ministers who took the oath of office at Rashtrapati Bhavan with stress on "performance" and "last mile delivery" speaks volumes about the lack of talent in the party.

Mihir Swarup Sharma, a fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, writing for NDTV, noted that about half the new or promoted ministers during the 2016 reshuffle had strong connections to RSS and that this time, two new ministers from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have strong links to the RSS and their elevation only underscores the importance of the RSS to the Modi regime.

"This is a confused reshuffle from a government that cannot find its way to providing effective governance," he argued. "Yes, it will keep the RSS loyal; and yes, it will stay on-message. It's clear that that is what Modi believes will win 2019: Not delivery, and not governance."

VVP Sharma, writing for, argues that this exercise is part of the BJP's long-term electoral strategy. "It reflects an upper caste, specially Brahmin, tilt. Most of them have RSS backgrounds. Essentially, it is all about balancing out things in north Indian states like Rajasthan, which is going to elections in 2018," Sharma wrote.

With inputs from agencies

Click here for the list of new portfolios

Click here for the full list of Union Cabinet ministers.

Updated Date: Sep 04, 2017 13:05 PM

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