Second Modi cabinet gearing up for 2024 succession plan
GUWAHATI: Though one of the most surprising inclusions in the second Narendra Modi ministry at the centre, the oath taking ceremony for which was held at the magnificent forecourt of the Rashtrapati Bhavan yesterday, is S Jaishankar as the External Affairs Minister, inclusion of Amit Shah as the home minister of India replacing Rajnath Singh, points towards a carefully laid out succession plan for the post-Modi era in 2024. The reason for this is very simple: while as the BJP President, Shah would have lorded over so many states where the saffron party is in power besides the other ministries at the Centre, as the home minister, not only would he be confined to the corridors of the South Block on the Raisina Hills but would also have to give up the powerful party president post since BJP follows one person one position policy thereby limiting his spheres of power. This only means that Shah’s administrative capabilities as the country’s home minister will have to be peddled before the populace should it first require to establish such a credential and secondly, within the party, it would come handy to push forward his case when the time comes in 2024. Therefore, giving up the party president’s post should not be seen as a climbing down from the high pedestal but in effect, should be viewed as the temporary sacrifice for reaching a position adorned by only a chosen few in independent India.
So far, the party has not indicated whether Shah would step down as the party president and someone else would be appointed in his place. There is also speculation that a working president would be appointed to undertake the day-to-day activities and Shah would continue as the symbolic head of the party. But in either scenario, Shah’s role as the party supremo would be reduced and the heavy lifting with respect to party machinery will have to be undertaken by someone else.
Selection of S Jaishankar, the former foreign secretary to government of India as the new foreign minister points towards continuing with the generally successful foreign policy regime of Modi between 2014-2019. A career diplomat, Jaishankar has steered Modi’s foreign policy in NDA-1 at a difficult time and appointment of him as the foreign minister is a just reward besides ensuring that an important portfolio is in capable hands. As against that, the appointment of Nirmala Sitharaman as the new finance minister (FM) has the biggest element of surprise in 2019. At a time when the economy is not doing well, the new FM has a task at hand and will have to hit the ground running. The latest government figures display a kind of nervousness in the job market with the urban unemployment rate at 7.8% and rural unemployment rate being 5.3% and therefore, the finance ministry will have to bring the economy out of its stupor in record time. Sitharaman was a steely defence minister and is used to tough decision making and therefore, the country expects her to take the country of the economic imbroglio soon.
Overall, the new ministry is a mixture of experience and new comers and with quite of few ex-bureaucrats being part of it, handling administrative matters would not be a difficult task. And as in NDA-1, this time too, the PMO is expected to take crucial decisions thereby continuing with the central decision making process. At a time when the Current Account Deficit, Fiscal Deficit, the GDP figures are less than encouraging and the international crude prices are threatening to spill over, Indian economy is standing at a crucial juncture. The economy needs infusion of cash and with low inflation and low demand, the government has to tread very carefully so that we don’t fall into the post-Lehman scenario of the past.
As far as Assam and the rest of the northeast is concerned, with just two inclusions, there is nothing much to cheer about regarding this cabinet. However, it is early days yet and with as many as 24 ministry posts to be filled, there could be better representation from the northeast in future. Rameswar Telli, the Dibrugarh MP has been inducted as the minister of state in the food processing industries ministry and the next few months would show whether he is cut out for the job or not. Ideally, in this ministry, rather than government doling out projects, there is always scope for encouraging private sector investment, primarily through the Public-Private-Partnership route and if the government of the day is innovative enough, we will definitely see improvement. Kiren Rijiju’s portfolio of sports & minority affairs, though with independent charge, is not attractive enough to write much about but given the abysmal sports infrastructure available in the northeast, it is time something is done about it and Rijiju will be remembered if he can do only that much.