Daily Excelsior

We, the people of India, have witnessed highly charged political drama of cabinet expansion that brought about resignation, removal, induction and promotion of leaders of ruling NDA to overhaul and reset Union Government. A significant exercise carried out to ensure heterogeneity of leadership to match public and political expectations was staged amidst surprises both in terms of exit and entry of leaders of BJP and other allies who could either desert or damage their original political entity and in turn strengthened ruling party. A large number of leaders took oath on Wednesday evening as new ministers and some of them have even served as Chief Ministers. The intensity of surprise remained high with regard to exit of ministers then new entrants. Trickling of resignations voluntarily or on demand continued till oath taking ceremony with many high profile ministers of old cabinet falling in line. This unusually sensitive drama predesigned and staged with absolute secrecy speaks voluminously about functioning of centralized power control. However, it is the time that unfolds mystery behind any such event. Recent cabinet rejig may have been executed to enhance performance, attain future political targets, to supplement electoral strategy for forthcoming legislative elections and more specifically to arrest declining public image during pandemic owing to shattered health services, rising unemployment, unbearable inflation and overall emerging public annoyance and criticism. The present NDA Government under leadership of PM Modi is in its third year and this reshuffles of council of ministers is first since the formation of Government in May 2019. A total of 78 members, including PM, form new cabinet and this combination consist of several new faces and seven ministers of state promoted to cabinet rank. Allowed maximum number of council of Ministers is 81. It is seen that attempt has been made to include young leaders, enhance women representation and a crucial consideration of backward classes ahead of state elections including Uttar Pradesh in the year 2022. At the same time, concept of minimum Government maximum governance has been ignored probably out of compulsion and not choice. Induction of more ministers may strengthen administration of the Government but would certainly reflect inability of the head of the team, PM Modi, to retain the status of minimum Government, a legitimate claim of BJP. Resignation of 12 sitting ministers especially of some senior leaders like Health Minister does confirm that revamping administration has become very critical in view of heavy criticism for handling of coronavirus crisis, soaring prices and emerging resentment from several sections of the society. However, PM Modi while interacting with new ministers conveyed that revamping exercise was necessitated for administrative reasons and is nowhere related with performance of their predecessors and advised them to avail their experience for better output. It is healthy to note inclusion of young leaders of BJP as ministers and increased representation of women and backward classes especially from Uttar Pradesh ahead of legislative elections to extract political mileage for assuring smooth retention of electoral mandate. Issue of resignations voluntarily or on demand remains focus of attention for Political observers, columnists and media persons to analyze it again and again. The performance criteria applied here may not be of an individual but collectively for the concerned ministry. It is also an accepted fact that the performance of present Union Government attracted criticism across the spectrum on account of dwindling economic growth even before the onset of pandemic. Handling of coronavirus crisis added severe resentment from several sections of the society. Resultant loss of employment and soaring prices of critical consumer good and fuel has also lowered the image of present dispensation. It is healthy to accept shortfalls of the system and correct them for future. This overhaul of council of ministers may help the system achieve good governance and would pave way for better political prospects in future. The performance of the present set of ministers would affect the party image and create avoidable speed breakers on the way to future challenges. It therefore spells out the essentiality of undergoing mega overhaul not merely to penalize the non-performers but to set right the derailed course of all-around performance of the government. Creation of Cooperation Ministry at this juncture to make deeper inroads in rural India and arrest disquiet due to implementation of farm reform laws is another step towards better political prospect in future. Also it may help government to break stranglehold of politicians in farm produce and marketing cooperatives. Impending political challenges apparently guided this mega exercise with an aim to create jubilation amidst masses and zeal to perform in the mind of new entrants and promotees though at the cost of some possible annoyance of senior leaders who resultantly exited from the cabinet. It may help present set up to generate political fog and erase public discord to some extent for attaining electoral mandate especially during year 2022 when large states like Utter Pradesh and Gujrat are on stake. It may therefore infer that the element of essentiality to undergo exercise of cabinet expansion arose from political compulsion and not from the visible deficient governance that lowered public concern during the currency of present tenure. Moving away from the legitimate claim of Minimum Government maximum governance may probably cost the party in power very dearly. The mega exercise may generate healthy vibes for the time being, a critical analysis of the composition of new formed council of ministers and recent report of ADR (Association for Democratic Reforms) indicates that percentage of Union Ministers who have declared criminal cases against them has increased to 3 percentage points after this expansion/overhaul. 33 ministers out of 78 (42%) have criminal cases against them and of these 24 have serious ones related to murder, attempt to murder and robbery as per election affidavits. A group of millionaires and multimillionaires found entry in the new scheme dismissing the claim of grass root governance. We, the people of India, who have mandated BJP to dispense good governance with healthy economic growth for poverty alleviation and social justice would expect fast turnaround of stressed economy, win over the malaise of unemployment, recovery of core industrial sector and above all resilient health infrastructure capable to fight against future waves of the Coronavirus and save precious lives.

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