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With the Modi in Camelot 2.0, Expect the Unexpected

Many aspirations and ambitions have to be fulfilled while hard work and perseverance will need to be rewarded

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Prime Minister Modi
Modi said strengthening the close bilateral relationship had been "one of the most important foreign policy priorities" of his government. WikiMedia Commons

With a gargantuan majority at his disposal, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has a huge gene pool to choose from and reward as he goes about appointing members to his new Camelot. However, with PM Modi, no one can second-guess him. At the same time, speculation is rife in Delhi’s political circles on the composition of the new Cabinet.

For starters, one will have to look at the Big Four – members of the all important Cabinet Committee on Security. In the erstwhile Cabinet there were two women. Apparently, former Rajasthan Chief MInister Vasundhara Raje may be sounded out for the External Affairs Ministry while giant killer Smriti Irani, who toppled Congress President Rahul Gandhi from his pocket borough of Amethi, may get the plum post of Raksha Mantri. Many aspirations and ambitions have to be fulfilled while hard work and perseverance will need to be rewarded.

The PM may also be looking at certain technocrats to push his JAM policy where the tri-junction of Jan, Aadhar and Mobile meet. This has paid handsome dividends at the bottom of the pyramid and in more ways than one given a sense of liberation and purpose to rural women. As such, one shouldn’t be surprised if there is a Make in India, Skill Development and other such nomenclatures in the new Cabinet.

Grapevine also indicates that NSA Ajit Doval may be one of the contenders for the Defence Minister’s job. He could even be sent to Washington as India’s ambassador to the US. Adding a twist to the permutations and combinations, if BJP President Amit Shah is inducted into the Cabinet, he may get one of the most crucial portfolios out of three – Home, Defence or even Finance.

Modi, Camelot 2.0
Former Rajasthan Chief MInister Vasundhara Raje may be sounded out for the External Affairs Ministry. Flickr

In whatever role the PM assigns him, he will be pushing the rollout agenda of the PM’s pet schemes aggressively. In the eventuality that he joins the Cabinet, given the nature of Indian polity where the country lurches from one election to another and the whirligig is more often than not year round; Dharmendra Pradhan or Bhupendra Yadav may get the nod for the party top job.

Health minister J.P. Nadda is another name doing the rounds. National General Secretary and a Rajya Sabha MP from Himachal Pradesh, Nadda is known as a master strategist in his party. The party had given him charge of Uttar Pradesh in the recently concluded hustings. The party bagged 62 out of 80 Lok Sabha seats.

Meanwhile, Pradhan cut his teeth in the Bihar Lok Sabha elections 2014 and once again, this time in his home state Odisha. BJP’s vote share in the Lok Sabha polls in Odisha rose from about 21.9 per cent in 2014 to 38.37 per cent while the ruling BJD’s fell from 44.1 per cent in 2014 to 42.76 per cent.

BJP’s vote share in the Odisha Assembly polls also rose significantly from 18.2 per cent in 2014 to 32.5 per cent in 2019. An RSS member since his student days and a close confidant of both Modi and Shah, Pradhan is expected to play a bigger role in BJP.

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Bhupendra Yadav is a Rajya Sabha member, but equally a powerful national general secretary. Fiercely private, like his mentor Amit Shah, Yadav keeps to the confines of the war room, a role that he relishes. Yadav had been the BJP election in-charge for Rajasthan in 2013, Jharkhand in 2014 and Bihar in 2015. While Bihar did not go the way the BJP would have liked, Yadav delivered results for his boss, Shah, in both Rajasthan and Jharkhand.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh may be retained in his present job, but if party President Amit Shah, who has played a monumental role in the BJP returning to power working ceaselessly and tirelessly to put the strategic tent poles in place, joins the Cabinet, the former party president may become the new Speaker of the Lok Sabha.

Railways Minister Piyush Goyal, who served as the interim finance minister when Arun Jaitley was undergoing treatment, may step into his shoes.

However, other names are also doing the rounds for this post. Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad may be moved to a more prominent ministry after his win in Patna Sahib. He was a minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government and became a cabinet minister under Modi. Nitin Gadkari had a number of ministries under him and is credited with most tangible work being done in those departments. He may continue with the work assigned to him. Agriculture will be one of the focus areas and, there is a thinking that a technocrat like Ashok Gulati should be given the job to ameliorate the woes of agrarian India which appears to be in distress mode.

Modi, Camelot 2.0
Speculation is rife in Delhi’s political circles on the composition of the new Cabinet. Flickr

Telecom will have a new minister since Manoj Sinha is one of the prominent losers in the BJP. If Pradhan moves to head the party, then the energy portfolio comprising petroleum and natural gas will also see a new face. Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi may get a cabinet rank this time. He is the most prominent Muslim face in the Modi team. Prakash Javdekar will also be given an important position — he served as HRD Minister in the old Council of Ministers.

Also Read- India: In Modi 2.0 Cabinet, Allies and Performers will be Rewarded

With nearly 80 members in the previous Cabinet, lots of faces and names to fill the posts abound. Expect the infusion of new blood and representation to states where the BJP has done exceedingly well — Rajasthan, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Delhi, Jharkhand, Odisha, Telangana, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and equal weight to the allies. (IANS)

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Remarkable Insight into How Governance in India Ought to be Upgraded

It is presumed that the Director LBSNAA, who was part of the planning of this important event, would have the full address of the PM placed

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Governance, India, Prime Minister
The profound message coming from him was that the officers of the All India Services were meant to work with a 'national mindset' regardless of what posts they held and that they must rise. Wikimedia Commons

With a remarkable insight into how the governance in this country ought to be upgraded, Prime Minister Modi while addressing the Probationers of Indian Civil Services attending the Foundational Course, outlined the big picture of ‘the mission and delivery’ that the officers manning the famed ‘steel frame’ of India were expected to measure up to in their long years of duty ahead. In a first time event, the officers who were in the early phase of their training were assembled at a place outside of the LBSNAA Mussoorie — at Kevadia in Gujarat, the venue of Sardar Patel’s statue — for the Prime Minister’s address on October 31 marking the National Unity Day.

The Prime Minister, in fact, spent the better part of the day with them. The profound message coming from him was that the officers of the All India Services were meant to work with a ‘national mindset’ regardless of what posts they held and that they must rise above domestic divisions of caste, creed and region to always decide on what would be in the larger interest of the nation and the common man. It is presumed that the Director LBSNAA, who was part of the planning of this important event, would have the full address of the PM placed in the libraries of the Mussoorie Academy as well as the premier training institutes of all national civil services.

The three most important points of strategic guidance that Prime Minister Narendra Modi presented to the young officers were that they should consider themselves primarily as service providers, that they should work for the higher objective of promoting ‘ease of living’ keeping the poorest in view and that they must not get into the habit of shunning decision making and yielding to the status quo. He reminded them that the bigger opportunities ‘that the nation was providing them’ also exposed them to higher responsibilities and told them upfront that negative perceptions about bureaucracy had to be ended. Perhaps the most incisive comment the Prime Minister made was that governance should neither have a ‘suppressive impact’ nor should it be ineffective to the point of creating the illusion that there was ‘no government’ in place. This last is the crux of what needs to happen in India by way of a demonstrable reform in governance.

Bureaucracy likes to work on the borrowed strength of its political masters and not on the foundation of sound judgement dictated by its own in-depth experience of years of public service. There is no other country that provides the equivalent of IAS and IPS in terms of the high starting point of a career in civil service that a meritorious young person gets — making one the Collector, a virtual ‘king’ of a big territory called the District and the other the SSP, a Commander in Chief of thousands of armed men in uniform and personnel of the civil police there — all in the course of just 5-6 years of service.

Governance, India, Prime Minister
The Prime Minister, in fact, spent the better part of the day with them. Wikimedia Commons

It is ironic that in their journey up the promotion ladder, they become reclusive and desk bound and tend to lose out on their role as a mentor for their juniors. Prime Minister Modi did not forget to remind the probationers that their outreach to the people must not diminish and convey it to the seniors in the administration and the police that the old tradition of an outgoing officer leaving behind instructive ‘notes’ for his successor deserved to be restored. It is difficult to find another example of the chief of the political executive governing a big democracy like India’s, himself giving such explicit apolitical advice to the bureaucracy on how to improve upon its working.

In a subtle mentoring of the young officers done by the Prime Minister himself, he enthused them to believe that they were uniquely placed to improve the ‘ecosystem of governance’ for the nation’s ‘capacity building’. He suggested that in the first years of their posting amongst the people in a district, they should work for ‘one district, one problem, total solution’. This is an extremely thoughtful way of getting the most productive results out of the initial years of the civil services officers when they were still fired with passion for work and relatively unspoilt by extraneous influences.

In fact, there is a case for India ‘going back to the districts’ for governance as the collector and SSP between themselves can monitor both development and security in their district segment. This tradition has broken down because their seniors — chief secretary and DGP — do not back them for reasons that are known. The centre must find a way of having a say in the appointment of these two top officials — the Supreme Court has already facilitated this process in respect of the DGP which should be replicated for the appointment of the chief secretary as well. The crucial point is about UPSC drawing up a panel in consultation with the state government for the purpose — an idea supported by the apex court implicitly on the ground that the centre had a responsibility for tracking the performance of IAS and IPS officers whom it recruits and trains before it allocates them to the states.

Prime Minister Modi’s address at Kevadia touched on a basic principle of governance — it should provide stability without becoming suppressive. In the name of sending out a message that India had a ‘strong’ government, the bureaucracy including the enforcement agencies are beginning to exercise their power in a manner that impacted adversely the average law abiding citizen — not primarily the big offenders. The two major coercive instruments of a democratic state — police and tax collectors — need to be on a responsible course to avoid creating the impression that they were out to ‘rule’ the people and not serve them.

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In Delhi, the traffic police is busy sending over speeding notices without specifying the excess speed recorded in each case while no effort is made to detect ‘lane surfing’ — a dangerous form of driving — that would require hard work on the part of the policemen. On the tax front, a long retired senior official, an octogenarian, who had received appreciation letters for tax payments was hauled up for some omission in the IT return that he had filed 11 years ago. The old man had to endure a long correspondence to establish that it is the computerised IT system that had failed to record certain entries.

Apparently an army of junior functionaries deployed for making a ‘total scan’ is exercising no discretion about concentrating on high income businessmen and professionals rather than on government servants. In the Modi regime, the responsibility of supervising senior officers has to be pushed up in the interest of governance. Just as Home Minister Amit Shah is directly overseeing the functioning of the internal security machinery, other ministers must take charge of the performance of their bureaucrats in terms of their public service orientation and pro-people decision making. (IANS)