Cabinet reshuffle: Scarcity of talented legislators in BJP laid bare after Kannanthanam, Puri become ministers

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.

 Cabinet reshuffle: Scarcity of talented legislators in BJP laid bare after Kannanthanam, Puri become ministers

President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi poses with some new members of cabinet after the reshuffle at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on Sunday. PTI

In other words, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s expression of high confidence in the abilities of Raj Kumar Singh, Alphons Kannanthanam (both IAS), Hardeep Singh Puri (IFS) and Satya Pal Singh (IPS) is also in some ways the prime minister’s expression of low confidence in the regular bench strength comprising of entry level cadre of politicians. This has caused certain unease among a section of party leaders.

But given the current structure of the party where power, authority, influence as also winnability in election flows from Modi and party chief Amit Shah, the murmurs would remain limited to private talk and momentary sarcastic barbs.

Consider the following — Raj Kumar Singh, former Union home secretary who had joined BJP ahead of 2014 parliamentary elections and won from Arrah seat, had virtually turned into a rebel during the Bihar Assembly election. He even dared party leadership to expel him if they thought what he was saying was wrong and came within the ambit of anti-party act and propriety of party discipline. Many thought his political career was over. But as they say, never write the obituary of someone in politics. Singh has now bounced back to become a minister in the Modi government.

Puri and Kannanthanam are not members of any House of Parliament and the onus is now on the party leadership to make them enter Rajya Sabha before the expiry of the mandatory six-month time. Puri has an excellent track record as a career diplomat and was associated with Ajit Doval’s Vivekanand Foundation. During his student days, his thought process was closer to that of BJP (the then Jan Sangh) but his lateral entry in the government as a minister in the third and final expansion of the Modi government by itself is a big story.

If Puri is a Sikh, then Kannanthanam is a Christian from Kerala who first made his mark in the National Capital as vice-chairman of Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and was then called "Demolition Man". His entry in BJP’s ranks and in Modi government as a minister of state is expected to provide the party some leeway in the Christian community in Kerala.

Satya Pal Singh, former Mumbai Police commissioner who joined BJP ahead of 2014 parliamentary elections, defeated RLD chief Ajit Singh in Baghpat and is now the new Jat face of the party in Western Uttar Pradesh. He is the replacement for the outgoing minister of state from the same community Sanjeev Baliyan.

What gives loads of fodder for multitude interpretation in private talks on their selection for ministerial berths is Modi's redefinition of the 4Ps -- "Passion + Proficiency + Professional and Political acumen – for Progress". A party leader in a conversation with Firstpost asked: "Does this mean those not considered for ministerial berths don’t possess these 4P qualities?"

Interestingly, none of the six ministers Kajraj Mishra, Rajeev Pratap Rudi, Bandaru Dattatreya, Fagan Singh Kulaste, Sanjeev Baliyan and Mahendra Pandey who have been dropped in this reshuffle 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.

"In continuance of his track record of identifying his fellow team members on the merit of their past performance and future potential, the new ministers have been selected by the prime minister with a clear mandate to deliver on his vision of a New India. A vision which is built on the foundations of development and good governance, and with a focus on the Garib (poor), Shoshit (exploited), Peedit (afflicted) and Vanchit (deprived) segments of our society. The new ministers are going to be strategically placed in key ministries, especially focusing on last mile delivery directly to the people… The new ministers come from varied walks of life, bringing in their unique professional perspective and proficiency to the council. Many of them also bring rich administrative and governance experience," said a senior functionary clued into issues around the expansion and reshuffle.

What goes in favour of all the nine newly inducted ministers that they all have good educational qualifications and years of experience of working on the ground.

Of Modi’s pick of four MoS (Independent Charge) for elevation to the Cabinet rank Piyush Goyal and Nirmala Sitharaman are qualified professionals. The other two — Dharmendra Pradhan and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi — have risen from grassroots political ranks. There is no doubt that promotion is based on their performance in their respective ministries and organisational work but the politics of it is equally interesting.

Pradhan has proved his worth by Ujjwala and other schemes in petroleum ministry but one of the main reasons behind elevating him to the Cabinet rank is to give him the required profile to make him the party’s chief ministerial face in Odisha. As the challenger to Naveen Patnaik, three-term chief minister of the state since 2004, Pradhan has to have a strong standing. His elevation to the Cabinet rank has a lot to do with BJP’s expansionist plan in Odisha.

After the exit of Venkaiah Naidu from active politics, Sitharaman has potential to emerge as BJP’s face in South India (other than Karnataka). She is from Tamil Nadu. She enjoys the confidence of the prime minister, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Shah. She had been an articulate spokesperson of the party and has now been drafted as one of the co-incharge in Jaitley’s team for Gujarat Assembly election.

Goyal impressed Modi and Shah by his performance in the ministries of power, coal and mines as also through his organisational work. His elevation to the cabinet rank would make it possible for him to hold more important portfolios and also have a greater say in Maharashtra politics. Naqvi’s elevation means that Union Cabinet will have the representation of a Muslim member. He has been consistent, non-confrontationist and up to mark as MoS parliamentary affairs and minority affairs.

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Updated Date: Sep 04, 2017 08:27:33 IST