Friday, November 7, 2014

Namo all set go to recast his “unimpressive cabinet”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “unimpressive cabinet” is in discussion yet again. Incidentally, PM is expanding his council of ministry at a time when a renowned TV face, who never had any soft corner for Namo, has come out with a book, ‘2014-The Election That Changed India’. On personal front, it’s another race where predicament of to do or not to do and some unfriendly circumstances, like the rejection of the ‘idea’ by two publishers, makes me feel, yes sir, performer is a winner. And obviously, winner takes it all.

One New Delhi-based publication with whom I have never dealt in the past – and a reputed one and not Rajdeep’s publisher (Penguin India), said it’s pre-occupied with other works. A Kolkata-based publisher friend, and a good friend, argued, none would read a book on an Indian election in airports. Point was taken!!
And I had my personal and good reasons not to go to my old publishers. 
In any case, my presumption was always that the general elections 2014 offered a whole new ball game. The players were the same and also a mix of new and the old but the rules had changed significantly.

For the first time, social networking sites were in play. The elections, therefore, marked a watershed in the history of free India. One question often debated has been why and how did Narendra Modi click across the country including in states where BJP hardly existed. 

Actually, Narendra Modi represented different aspirations to different sets of people. That’s the yardstick of a mass appeal of a leader. Call it a ‘wave’ or something else. To middle class and educated lot, Modi’s appeal was more fundamental to economy. He was seen as the economic reformer the middle class Indian and the army of netizens smitten by social networking bug were looking for.

But But having said all these one point remains to be said that Modi’s first council of ministers was not very impressive in that sense of the term given the expectations.

Someone like journalist Manish Anand suggested in his blog  that a “larger story of brazenness” was reflected in his ministry formation. “A pattern emerges that all those who valiantly defended Modi in the media are now in his Cabinet. And that invites the criticism, that Modi yielded to favoritism and bias while picking his team”.
Obviously his reference was to the inclusion of faces like Nirmala Sitharaman, Prakash Javadekar and Ravi Shankar Prasad in the government. 
Now the stage is set for cabinet expansion and reshuffle. 
Of course, Goa’s most performing chief minister Manohor Parrikar is being mostly debated now. Whether Prime Minister Modi would pass on Defence portfolio to him is now everyone’s guessing game?

Of course, there are other names being talked about. Few conjectures are also being debated. Whether PM will elevate few loyalists like Nirmala Sitharaman and Prakash Javadekar? Whether a few supposed non-performing ministers like Sadanand Gowda could be dropped?
A few sections, especially sound-byte friendly journalists with news agencies would like Radha Mohan Singh, a RSS man from Bihar, removed as Agriculture Minister. 

Reasons are professional with a twist: unlike Sharad Pawar, who functioned more as a corporate man than a real farmer-friendly ‘mantri’, Radha Mohan Singh is a friendly minister to Hindi-speaking journalists. 

Moreover, Singh does not give bytes easily palatable to foreign agencies and which can impact stock market!
Yes, this is another face of Selfless Journalism.

Faceless Voters: High Expectations
But coming to his ministry formation it’s a fact that even Modi could not stay away from the general trend in Indian politics that cabinet formation is decided by political considerations and less by efficiency. 

Thus people questioned the inclusion of Jual Oram as Tribal Affairs minister, a portfolio he held under Vajpayee but could not leave any mark. There were others like Arun Jaitley as the Finance Minister himself. 

Jaitley is hardly known for his wisdom in economic affairs and thus Modi expected him to do a turnaround of the economy simply because Jaitley has been in his core group all along. 

So likes of Manish Anand have their argument well stated. At the same time Modi’s balancing act could not do justice to states like Rajasthan who sent all 25 MPs to Modi’s team of 282.

The states like Nagaland, Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Sikkim or Tripura were neglected. From Nagaland, a pre-poll ally, NPF leader Neiphiu Rio had moved out to Delhi leaving his safe comfort zone of chief ministership and was reportedly assured a berth.

But giving the devil its due, is it wrong to suggest a cabinet or a council of ministers will be decided by the Prime Minister or he will have a team which enjoys his full confidence? In fact, by having many crucial Ministers of State Independent charge, as stated above, Prime Minister has only retained his hold on these ministries like Power, Coal, Commerce, Environment and Mining to cite only a few. So non-performing if is an yardstick, it can reflect on the most powerful man in the PMO itself.
Non-performing ministers list as gossip industry in Lutyen’s city goes  include: Sarbanand Sonowal (Sports) and Dharmendra Pradhan (Petroleum). Just a few names. So if a former RJD-turn coat Ram Kripal Yadav is being considered for a berth; it’s purely caste consideration. Lalu Yadav-Nitish bogey needs to be countered well in Bihar on the eve of state elections in 2015.  

Tail Piece:

As a known Modi Bhakt, I too have personal issues with the Prime Minister himself. 
Two most unimpressive episodes of Modi regime: First, the manner he chose the Ordinance route to change a small piece of law to appoint the incumbent TRAI chairman Nripendra Mishra as his Principal Secretary. 

What was the tiring hurry? But here my take was: Modi functions like this.

Secondly, the selfie-drama he allowed enacting during Diwali Milan with country’s galaxy of senior journalists and BJP beat correspondents does not only reflect about media as the fourth pillar. 

As a newsman, I am never hungry for a selfie with even Lord Krishna from upstairs or Mr Devil from ‘hell industry’. My oneliner to both would be: “Bhai sahab pahele koi news batao (Gentleman, please share a piece of news with me)." 

And then I will be too happy for the photo session. 
Lutyen's city’s editors can wait for a trip with you and meantime, Sir, Twitter has its limitation, Mr Prime Minister. 


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