The Union Cabinet reshuffle

Sunday’s ‘reshuffle’ of the Union Cabinet makes two things clear. First, the Government is becoming more BJP than NDA. If the BJP is able to increase its tally further in the 2019 general elections, the Union Government may become a wholly BJP Government. The present NDA allies may find themselves left high and dry. The second is that in reshuffling his Cabinet, Narendra Modi’s emphasis was on selecting competent men who can deliver rather than on their Hindutva credentials. Expectedly, speculation about party president Amit Shah being inducted into the Cabinet has proved wrong. Amit Shah’s main task now is to prepare the party for the coming electoral battle. The party cannot tie him in a desk job at the Secretariat.
Much is being made of Nirmala Seetharaman being made Defence Minister. Those familiar with the functioning of the Union Government know that the Defence Ministry is actually run by the Prime Minister’s office in close consultation with the National Security Adviser. The same goes about the Ministry of External Affairs. Sushma Swaraj’s job is now to come to the aid of Indian nationals stranded in foreign countries and to sanction visa for foreign nationals who need to come to India for medical treatment. The Prime Minister is the de facto Foreign Minister. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar who expected to be ‘rewarded’ for breaking the Mahagathbandhan and bringing the BJP back to power, has been snubbed. None from the JD(U) has been inducted into the new Cabinet.  Despite recently supporting the BJP on several occasions, Sharad Pawar’s NCP did not get an invite to join the Union Cabinet either.
The conspicuous absence of the old guard of the BJP – Lal Krishna Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi et al – in the oath-taking ceremony shows that those that had helped the party to get over the political ostracism the BJP once suffered and to come to power at the Centre are being unceremoniously reduced to total unimportance as useless and dispensable old baggage. Only the attitude of the RSS to Modi and his Government is not clear. The RSS has recently expressed concern at the discontent of the people against the Government due to some of its policy decisions like demonetization. It is also clear that Modi is acquiring an independence from the traditional RSS control in running the Government. How the future relations between the RSS and Modi develop will be interesting to watch.

Tuesday, 5 September, 2017