Finally the cabinet expansion and reshuffle taken place – minimum government ?

When the Modi Government came to power, the country had been totally disgusted with the going-ons in the Congress years during the UPA rule. People were selected to be ministers based on their influence and their power, guided by the decision making exercised by the Gandhi family. The revelation of the Nadia tapes just highlighted what people already knew – that everybody is involved in deciding who gets to be a minister, that merit and capability is nowhere to be seen, and other reasons.
So when the Modi Government came to power, there were several expectations, and chief among them were these: Meritocracy, No nefarious influence in deciding who gets to be ministers (even though there was some fears of the RSS influence), Minimum Government and maximum governance (which means that the ministry would be properly sized and extra departments would be abolished or merged) and pray we hope for, no usage of factors such as caste mathematics in deciding who would be ministers.
When the cabinet was formed, it was a mix of expectations. There were some people with a lot of merit that found their way in the cabinet, such as Piyush Goyal, Suresh Prabhu, Manohar Parrikar, and some others. However, there were expectations that some others who have got a good reputation in the past, such as Major BC Khanduri and Arun Shourie were not included even though there was widespread expectations for the same. Then, over a period of time, some of the ministers in the government really did not show much performance other than making provocative statements and causing trouble for the Government. Ministers making provocative statements did a lot to make the small hard-core supporters of the Modi Government happy, but there were many others who supported the Government for the development and reduced corruption promises, who had not signed for these provocative statements and there would have been some resentment against the failure of the Government to put a cap on these people. Even experienced people such as Rajnath Singh and Uma Bharti really have not shown much active work.

There are some ministers who have done great work – Piyush Goyal comes out top for his work, Suresh Prabhu is working although the Railways is a hard work to reform, and even Nitin Gadkari is promising a lot but one really has to see a major improvement in road work and the waterways promise. Finance is really not sure, since there is nothing extraordinary that one can see there, the battle with the extension for Raghuram Rajan was a public relations nightmare for the Government (especially with foreign investors who highly respected him as the central banker). Commerce cannot be claimed as a success because of the continuing fall in exports over the past 1.5 years and unable to reverse it. Education is critical for the economy, but Smriti Irani came out as a highly arrogant minister who believed that whatever she believed was right, a righteous person who cannot tolerate that anybody else may be right. Her fights with the academia for the IIT’s and IIM’s would not win her any plaudits, and the confrontations in Hyderabad University and JNU may have won some plaudits, but led to further polarization and turned some more people against the Government.
Now, with the latest expansion of the Council of Ministers, there are again some positives and negatives, but more negatives than positive. For example, the size of the council of ministers is now 78 (there were 19 inducted and 5 dropped), which totally negates the concept of Minimum Government. The size of the Government is the largest it has been in 10 years, which is something that would lead to a disillusionment in some people. Further, people who were dropped were not dropped because of bad performance, there were many others who had even worse. They were dropped because their replacements were better representatives in terms of their communities or castes. And even the selection of those who were inducted is essentially to give greater representation for the states which are going to the polls next year. However, the population of the country is now more aware, and know all these tricks and gambits.
One good thing was that some of the ministers who did not seem to be performing or seemed too hostile were either moved or had portfolios taken away from them, such as Smriti Irani. This is a step that has had a lot of approval; it turns out her arrogance was not only limited to those against her but even those from the RSS and allied organizations who tried to work with her faced hostile behavior. By all accounts, the Parliamentary Affairs Minister was a disaster, major bills were not passed and the minister who would have tried to work with opposition parties instead would insult them, leading to a no major work done period in Parliament. But the transfer of Jayant Sinha from Finance did not make sense, the only reason would be that his father had taken pot-shots at the Government and this was punishment. It’s now more than 2 years, and they have time to work it out and get a better performance and measurement from the ministers.

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