What Is New In Modi’s Cabinet Reshuffle?

Prof N.K. SinghProf N.K. Singh

Former Chairman International Airports Authority of India

Most recent change in the government as depicted in Cabinet reshuffle is to introduce the principles of good management its working. By inducting nine ministers at Cabinet and state level and reshaping the Council of Ministers, prime Minister has brought sea change in the way government works. But the change is only beginning and needs wider deliberations. First time in India a change is being made on the basis of performance of ministers and principal of reward and punishment is being applied. This is corporate management and not normally used in the field of politics where mostly the changes are made on account of electoral considerations or failures. He is introducing another principal of measurement of performance as after rating the outcome of different ministers’, he is rewarding or punishing them. Take the case of four ministers who have been upgraded like Dharmendra Pradhan, Nirmla Sitharaman, Nitin Gadkari and Piuysh Goyal, all of them have been moved on the chess board to additional power or placement in critical positions. On the other hand, he smoothly removed four ministers who did not perform well. More important is how he moved the pawns to lesser effect like Uma Bharti and Vijay Goyal.

* No effort has been made in the present reshuffle to break into the castle of red tape built by the bureaucracy.Prime Minister Modi has nurtured a style of surprise in most of the announcements. That has two advantages –one that there is no external pressure on final decision making and second that the change announced has deep impact.

They have been moved to positions of lower limelight.Generally, the Cabinet reshuffle have been the shuffling pack of cards when nothing great is expected from these except if someone is dropped due to legal compulsion as in corruption cases. But in this case, the reshuffle is both a diagnostic exercise and clinical enhancement. It is not only surgery in terms of removal of four ministers, it is also quarantine of more like Uma Bharti, Vijay Goyal etc. But perhaps a surprise was addition of three professionals from services. R.K. Singh from IAS was formerly Home Secretary, V.P. Singh from Indian Police Services and Alphons from IAS. Modi made an attempt to enhance capacity of the Cabinet by adding these men of proven merit. It was long complained that he is not doing anything to underscore the need of merit against lackluster appointments. But shockingly, he found talent only in the worn out sources of services. He could have looked to legal, educational and scientific sectors for the talent. I remember how Mrs Indira Gandhi experimented with this professionalism in governance by inducting Mohan Kumarmanglam, Chairman of Indian Airlines.

She made him Minister of Steel and at that time we were witnessing great rise of heavy industry in line with Nehruvian vision of self reliance in heavy industry on Russian model. In a humble way, I was part of this change process and got associated with holding company concept when we abolished the kind of red tape that controlled the creative spirit of the professional managers. Thus Hindustan Steel was converted into SAIL which became Umbrella Company to control entire steel mines sector. So far secretary of the ministry was a professional manager and not service officer it did extraordinary job of production and reorientation to progressive role.

Modi could not change the steel frame of the services and rather added to it by taking three officers who represent the same culture. India needs vast change of systems. Modi bring Note ban and GST but implementation is by the same old hackneyed system that continues. One can’t sustain the original vision and thrust to the change brought. No effort has been made in the present reshuffle to break into the castle of red tape built by the bureaucracy.Prime Minister Modi has nurtured a style of surprise in most of theannouncements. That has two advantages –one that there is no external pressure on final decision making and second that the change announced has deep impact. In this case as earlier cases of choosing CM’s of states Yogi or Phadnavis and others, no one had any clue. In this case, an entire medium which is used to getting leaks and playing hide and seek games, was in the dark.

There was quizzical announcement of Nirmala Sitharaman as Defence Minister. No doubt she was doing well in exports andperformed well in trade. She could be promoted but to take her to theposition of Defense Minister was unimaginable. She was virtuallyplaced in most critical position when country was faced with difficult choices on the border. But taking such a risk could show theconfidence of the nation in a woman who could face a herculean task.

Modi scored another surprise and baffled the politicians and people at large. Now he has more scope as his council is 75 ministers against 77 in Manmohan Singh’s team. JDU, Shiv Sena and AIADMK have to be accommodated and he has enough cushion. New thinking will be on trial now which we will watch with puzzled eyes.

Bus Stand

First Passenger: (Watching an MLA in a luxury car) Election is near why don’t you tell me how to become an MLA?

Second Passenger: Had I known this, I would not have been standing on bus stand.

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