Team Modi falls in place

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Mid-sized 45-member council of ministers a mix of old, young and aspirational India

Team Modi falls in place
Prime minister Narendra Damodardass Modi put in place his much-anticipated Union cabinet aimed at achieving ‘minimum government with maximum governance.’

Modi who was sworn in as the 15th prime minister after having secured a landslide mandate on May 16, constituted a 45-member council of ministers. This is much leaner team as against the 77-member three-tier council of ministers that was led by Manmohan Singh during the UPA-II regime.

Narendra Modi’s and his cabinet were administered the oath of office by President Pranab Mukherjee at a 4,000-strong gathering in the forecourt of magnificent Rashtrapati Bhavan in the presence of heads of six Saarc countries and the president of Mauritius.

In his 24-member cabinet, Narendra Modi has given heavy representation to swing states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharastra, Rajasthan and Karnataka, all of whom swept the BJP and its allies to power decimating the Congress.

Party veterans LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi did not find place in Modi’s council of ministers.

At the time of going to press, Modi's cabinet members were yet to be officially allotted portfolios, even though TV channels had announced the various ministries allotted – all without any official confirmation.

Apart from Modi, Uttar Pradesh is represented in the cabinet through Rajnath Singh, Uma Bharti, Kalraj Mishra and Maneka Sanjay Gandhi. Ramvilas Paswan, Radhamohan Singh and Ravi Shankar Prasad represent Bihar.

Maharashtra, which goes to assembly polls later this year, has been given three cabinet berths, Gopinathrao Munde, Anant Gangaram Geete and Nitin Gadkari, while Madhya Pradesh is represented by Sushma Swaraj, Narendra Singh Tomar and Tawar Singh Gehlot.

The Modi team appears to be an exercise in balancing political equations with the party’s aspiration to grow in states like Goa, Andhra Pradesh, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.

The carefully selected council of ministers also brings to the table a judicious mix of experienced hands and youngsters, as the party cornered a large chunk of 100 million new voters that exercised their franchise for the first time.

The cabinet-making exercise also takes into account caste equations, especially with newfound support from different sections, especially in the Hindi heartland of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

Modi has also rewarded pre-election poll partners with one cabinet berth each for Telugu Desam (P. Ashok Gajapati Raju), Akali Dal (Harsimrat Kaur Badal) and Shiv Sena (Anant Gangaram Geete).

There were hardly any major surprises in the Narendra Modi council of ministers given the ‘limited talent pool’ from which he had to pick carefully without disturbing the party applecart.

Talk of inducting Arun Shourie, Subramanian Swamy, Deepak Parekh or economist Arvind Panigariya into Narendra Modi’s council of ministers remained a non-starter.

Interestingly, Narendra Modi’s pointsman in Uttar Pradesh, Amit Shah, did not find place in the cabinet team while another close aide Smriti Zubin Irani, who lost out to Rahul Gandhi in Amethi, was inducted as cabinet minister.

Delhi’s lone representation in the Union cabinet is former chief minister Harshvardhan, while Arun Jaitley and Smriti Irani represent Gujarat, both elected to Upper House from the state.

Though the party did not put up a fight in Odisha against the Biju Janata Dal, BJP veteran Jual Oram was inducted into the cabinet. The lone Muslim face in the council is Najma Heptullah, who represents Madhya Pradesh in the Rajya Sabha.

Karnataka, where the party got its act together after being decimated in the last assembly elections, is represented by Anant Kumar and DVSadananda Gowda. But, BS Yeddyurappa, facing serious corruption charges as party’s chief minister earlier in Karnataka, was kept out.

The 10 young ministers with independent charges have been chosen carefully, given their contribution to the party. For instance, Dharmendra Pradhan shouldered the party responsibility in Bihar during elections to take on the Lalu Yadav–Congress combine.

Similarly, Prakash Javadekar burnt the midnight oil to stitch the alliance between BJP and Telugu Desam. Likewise, Nirmala Sitaraman and Piyush Goyal did commendable jobs as party spokespersons. Sarbananda Sonawal, president of Assam BJP, too has been rewarded for getting the party to touch the eight-seat mark.

Even the 12 ministers of state seem to have been carefully picked to give representation to states where the BJP opened its account for the first time. For instance, Kiren Rijiju represents Arunachal Pradesh. Ponnu Radhakrishnan, the lone member from Tamil Nadu, found a place after having taken on both DMK and AIADMK in a triangular contest for the first time in the state. Upendra Kushwaha, who mobilised a major chunk of Kushwaha votes in Bihar, became minister of state.

The Rashtrapati Bhavan wore a festive and colourful look as a bevy of Bollywood stars, sports personalities and corporate honchos made their presence felt at the swearing-in ceremony making it one of the largest gatherings in recent times.

Mukesh Ambani, Anil Ambani, Rakesh Bharti Mittal, Sunil Bharti Mittal, Cyrus Mistry, Gautam Adani and Baba Kalyani were among the 100-odd corporate leaders who graced the occasion. Sports personalities like Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Bollywood actresses Preiti Zinta, Salman Khan and Anupam Kher also came in to support the Modi government.

Fortis executive chairman Malvinder Mohan Singh said, “The mandate Modi got was massive and we hope that the new government will go ahead with reforms and move ahead earnestly in providing clean governance.”

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