Dr P Pullarao
The need of a reshuffle is an admission of failure. It either means that your selected ministers have failed or your judgment was bad and you took in un-qualified Ministers. There is high personal approval of Modi. There has been no scandal and by great efforts of the tireless BJP president Amit Shah , BJP won many state elections and has grown across the country. In the Rashtrapathi election, BJP got wide support amongst all regional parties. The big assembly victory in Uttar Pradesh has stunned the entire opposition.
Politically, Modi and BJP are very successful . Many opponents like Nitish Kumar, Chief Minister of Bihar and ADMK of Tamilnadu have now joined the BJP alliance. In Telugu states, YSR Congress and TRS are friendly with BJP. In such a positive situation, many people might ask why should Modi reshuffle his cabinet and remove ministers . But “ a iron chain is only as strong as its weakest link “ . The weak ministers are actually pulling down the prime minister.
Talk of a major reshuffle of Modi government erupted since August 25, 2017 after RBI and other economic agencies have started talking of an economic slow-down, particularly post-Demonetization. The Chief Statistical officer of Government T.C.A. Anant has confirmed growth rate has come down to 5.7%. Other agencies have said demonetization has cost lakh of jobs .The real estate sector is depressed though there are nearly 50 lakh un-sold houses in the country. Agriculture is also in bad shape and farmer suicides continue.
There have been some stunning achievements of the government. The “ Swacchh Bharat “ program to introduce toilets, hygiene and cleanliness has made the entire country aware of its neglect and efforts are under way to solve this problem. Foreign Affairs are an area where government has been very active. Development of infra-structure is going on and roads are being built. GST has been introduced and it may take time for the results. But at least , trucks and vehicles will not be held up at State borders for days together. This itself is a great achievement.
Alarm bells started ringing and panic set in after the highly-praised Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu admitted failure and offered his resignation and Prime Minister accepted it. The fact that un-employment has not been tackled meant that the Labor and Skill Development ministers have failed. The fact that farmers are getting agitated and there is danger of an All India farmer protests has worried the Modi government.
Harold Macmillan was one of the great British Prime ministers from 1957 to 1963 wisely said : “ A good prime minister must be a good butcher”. Macmillan meant that a good prime minister must mercilessly sack in-efficient Ministers or Ministers getting a bad name for the government ruthlessly.
There is also the need to bring new talent from Outside the Parliament and BJP. There is great talent in the country. A man like Wipro Aziz Premji or Infosys Narayana Murthy could have been used. .. Railways, power, commerce, steel and finance are actually very highly technical ministries .Is there only one Metro Sreedharan in India ?
Those Ministers who talk well automatically get a certificate that they are very intelligent and performing well. After a government is formed, it becomes very difficult for a prime minister to sack any minister .Usually, Ministers develop a good relationship with the Prime Minister who starts feeling sympathetic to them , knowing that dismissal means they are destroyed. Such in-efficient Ministers also develop a good relationship with the circle around the Prime Minister. Politics is all about soft skills and making friends. The Prime Minister’s Court does its best to ensure that favorites are not dismissed .
The exclusion of the JD(U) of Nitish Kumar and the ADMK means that the expansion is incomplete . Since there are only 7 possible vacancies left, it means that some more ministers might be dismissed before the next expansion.
The failing economy remains the same and there is no cure for the ills or any change in the Economic ministers. Narendra Modi observed closely when Atal Behari Vajpayee faced elections in 2004 and expected to win 300 MPs. Vajpayee’s government gave countless advertisements of “ Shining India “. But Modi saw Vajpayee defeated due to over-confidence.
There is still time for corrections. Can Modi do it?
Dr P. Pulla Rao is a Socio-political and Economic analyst