While political overtones are evident in such high-decibel policy decisions, Modi has stuck to performance appraisal to decide on the future course of ministers.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Cabinet reshuffle on July 5 sends a strong message to his ministers: Perform or Perish. The fact that Modi reviewed the performance of ministers, days before the Cabinet reshuffle, was proof of the fact that he wants ministers to be more accountable and effective in implementing the schemes rolled out with much fanfare.
While political overtones are evident in such high-decibel policy decisions, Modi has stuck to performance appraisal to decide on the future course of ministers. In fact, he did a balancing act of replacing some of the laggards and at the same time not ruffling too many feathers.
And the fact that there is no dearth of talent in the Bharatiya Janata Party to replace existing ministers is evident from the inclusion of 19 junior ministers, some of whom are PhD, doctors and lawyers, and may prove to be more capable in some ministries than their predecessor.
The PM was also judicious in reducing the work load of some ministers like Arun Jaitley, who had his hands full with Finance Ministry but also overseeing Corporate Affairs and Information & Broadcasting. The I&B Ministry has been given to media savvy M Venkaiah Naidu, who is witty enough to matting the Opposition with his poetic and proverbial one-liners without inviting ire.
Given that some of the big reforms like Goods and Services Tax are pending and the Modi government has to sooth the nerves of Opposition to take them on board, Naidu’s charm in media management will be crucial.
The elevation of Prakash Javadekar to HRD as a Cabinet minister to replace Smriti Irani is yet another glaring example of how Modi wants performers to spearhead key areas like education, which will be crucial if India wants to become a Knowledge super-power and build an army of well educated, trained manpower.
Javadekar’s glorious stint at the Environment and Climate Change Ministry has put Modi and India at the forefront of global debate on climate change. India was always perceived to be a naysayer and negative in its approach and took a corner seat in most of the international conferences. But in Paris, Modi introduced the concept of climate justice driving home the message of sustainable development. Modi and Javadekar played hardball at the Paris COP21 and finally clinched a deal that curb emissions.
In contrast, Irani’s stint at HRD was mired with controversies over student suicides and change in curriculum and other rules that defied all logic.
Javadekar’s replacement was also well thought out as Anil Madhav Dave, a RSS strong man, has been a member of various committees including the Committee on Water Resources and Parliamentary Forum on Global Warming and Climate Change from March 2010 to June 2010.
Piyush Goyal getting mines ministry over and above power, coal and renewable energy is yet another example which shows Modi’s acumen in handling the affairs. The government will soon auction 100 mineral blocks and has appointed SBI Caps to frame the rules. Goyal success with coal block auctions will be required in mineral block auctions as well.
Shifting Narendra Singh Tomar from mining ministry to Rural Development Panchayati Raj Drinking Water and Sanitation is yet another conscious decision given his organization powers and the need to fortify BJP’s position at the grass-root level.
After the entire ruckus over call drops and the government’s drubbing at the Supreme Court, it was no surprise that Ravishankar Prasad has shunted out of Telecom Ministry moved to Law. DV Sadananda Gowda was yet another example who failed to make a cut and was shifted to Statistics and Programme Implementation.
OLD FACES, NEW ROLES
Some of veterans, who were out of the picture until now, have been inducted as junior ministers. Senior BJP leaders SS Ahluwalia and Vijay Goel are such familiar faces who have been inducted in ministries to strengthen presence in Parliament and respective ministries.
Ahluwalia, as MoS in Agriculture & Farmers Welfare and Parliamentary Affairs will be a figure to watch ahead of the Punjab elections as well as the need to push Modi’s mandate of the second Green Revolution in eastern India. After chairing the Joint Select Committee of Parliament on Land Acquisition, Ahluwalia will also be put forward for another effort to push the contentious Bill.
BJP national vice president Parshottam Rupala, eminent journalist MJ Akbar, AM Dave, RC Jigjinagi, FS Kulaste, Ram Das Atwale, Rajen Gohain, Arjun Ram Meghwal, Jaswantsinh Bhabor, Mahendra Nath Pandey, Ajay Tamta, Krishna Raj, Anupriya Patel, PP Choudhury, Shubhash Bhamre and Mansukh Mandaviya have also been made ministers with specific purposes.
Modi's Cabinet reshuffle also helps BJP start putting more ministers on the party work before the state elections at Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Uttarakhand in early 2017, and Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh elections in 2018.
The PM has also promoted Dalit leaders and women as ministers. Anupriya Patel, an OBC Lok Sabha member belonging to ally Apna Dal, Ajay Tamta, a dalit Lok Sabha member from Uttarakhand, Purushottam Rupala, a Rajya Sabha member from Gujarat, Ramdas Athawale, a RPI MP from Maharashtra (RS), Mahendra Nath Pandey and Krishna Raj, MPs from UP, have got a ministerial seat.
Modi has dropped five ministers—Sanwar Lal Jat (Minister of State for Water Resources River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation), Mohanbhai Kalyanjibhai Kundariya (Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare), Nihal Chand (Minister of State for Panchayati Raj), Mansukhbhai Dhanjibhai Vasava (Minister of State for Tribal Affairs and Ram Shankar Katheria (Minister of State for Human Resource Development).
FOCUS ON PERFORMANCE
As reported first by Bloomberg TV India on June 27, Modi met the Council of Ministers and reviewed the performance of all Union ministries to ascertain whether budgetary allocations have been spent wisely. He also asked the ministers the number of schemes implemented by their respective ministries. Modi asked the ministers to ensure that schemes are tailored in such a fashion that the benefit reaches the common man. Modi has made it clear that there was no need to come up with fresh schemes and the present ones should be altered as per changing needs.
Modi wants to make sure that schemes mentioned in the election manifesto are implemented in true spirit so that the Opposition does not get a chance to accuse the government of falling short on promises.
Flagship schemes like Jan Dhan and Pahal have made to the Guinness Book of Records. Make in India has made the country a FDI magnate—FDI inflows jumped almost 30 per cent to $40 billion in FY16. Tomar along with Ramesh Chandappa Jigajinagi will now have to push the Swachh Bharat initiative.
Naidu and his junior Rao Inderjit Singh will have to speed up work for 100 smart cities apart from the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) and Housing for All schemes that will have a multiplier effect on the economy and improve the living conditions of the urban poor.
While the Indian economy has grown by 7.6 per cent in FY16, which was the fastest pace among major emerging economies, there are pressure points in some sectors.
Latest government data shows infrastructure output grew 2.7 per cent in FY16, slower than 4.5 per cent in FY15, as output fell in crude oil, natural gas and steel sectors. The overall industrial output grew by a measly 2.4 per cent in FY16 as compared with 2.8 per cent in FY15 due to slowdown in manufacturing especially capital goods sector.
Modi has unleashed two bouts of reforms—one after the Bihar election in November and the second in June—to open up more sectors and improve the ease of doing business.
Some of the infrastructure ministries like railways, power and transport have a long list of achievements. But the to-do list is even longer. That’s why senior ministers like Suresh Prabhu, Piyush Goyal and Nitin Gadkari saw no changes in their portfolio.
Similar is case with Finance and Commerce. In case of Finance Ministry, Arun Jaitley can boast of aceelerating GDP growth to 7.6 per cent in FY16, lowering CPI inflation to 5 per cent and reining in fiscal deficit to 3.9 per cent of GDP. Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had a tough luck on exports, which fell 16 per cent in FY16 but came out of the red in FY17 while FDI inflows surged 29 per cent to $40 billion as rules were eased in about 20 sectors.
Jaitley’s aide Jayant Sinha shifting from Finance Ministry to Aviation was a shocker. Was Jayant posing a threat to Jaitley by speaking more than he was supposed to?
Jayant’s father and former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha have also been vocal against Modi and Jaitley’s policies. Was Jayant paying a price for that as well?
Jayant was a darling for the investor community especially the PE community. Will the investor class take this particular move of Modi lightly?