Modi Cabinet Reshuffle: An Attempt to Pacify Allies

The Modi government’s fourth Cabinet reshuffle is a hot topic in political circles these days.

3 min read
The third shuffle in Modi’s cabinet took place on 3 September, 2017.

The Narendra Modi government’s fourth Cabinet reshuffle is a hot topic in political circles these days. With just a year to go for the next general elections, this is assumed to be Modi’s last Cabinet reshuffle.

The two factors that are sure to dominate this reshuffle are:

  • Upset allies
  • Roadmap to 2019

Angry Allies

The BJP’s poor show in the recently-concluded bypolls to 10 Assembly and four Lok Sabha seats has sparked tensions within the party.

Shiv Sena, which had been showing signs of dissent since the past few months, contested the Palghar election against the BJP. Although the BJP won, it was still the first time that the NDA’s old ally pitched a candidate against the saffron party.

Meanwhile in Uttar Pradesh, Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party chief and minister in the Yogi Adityanath Cabinet, Om Prakash Rajbhar, held Adityanath responsible for the BJP’s defeat in Kairana.

Janata Dal (United) president Nitish Kumar also sparked speculations of breaking ties with the NDA when he raised questions over the functioning of banks during Demonetisation.

JD(U)’s Yesmanship?

These voices of dissent have BJP high command on alert. JDU, which joined the NDA on 19 August 2017 after breaking up with RJD, did not get a spot on the cabinet in the third reshuffle announced on 3 September 2017. But in light of the policy of appeasing allies, JDU is sure to get a place in the cabinet this time.

But the question is whether Nitish Kumar will want a spot in the government or not. His response will be a clear indicator of whether or not JDU will remain with the NDA in 2019.

Sena Opposition

Anant Geete is the only minister from Shiv Sena in the Modi Cabinet. Every Cabinet reshuffle has seen talks of increasing Shiv Sena’s quota, but it hasn’t happened so far. More hostilities were shown after the Palghar by-elections, with Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut writing in party mouthpiece Saamana:

Shiv Sena is BJP’s biggest ‘political foe.’ Shiv Sena’s intense Hindutva can create obstacles for the BJP.

Thought the Palghar victory has boosted the BJP’s negotiating position, it can still try to appease Shiv Sena by increasing their quota in Cabinet.

Which Important Ministries are Vacant?

Following the resignation of TDP's Ashok Gajapati Raju on 8 March, 2018, Suresh Prabhu was given additional charge of Civil Aviation.

Now, at a time when government airline Air India is going through the process of disinvestment, the need for a separate Civil Aviation Ministry is being felt. Since this ministry has always been part of the allies’ quota, it will only go to an ally.

After the removal of Smriti Irani from the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, her deputy, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, was given independent charge of the ministry. Because the job of this ministry is to highlight and promote the achievements of the government, it cannot go to allies but someone can be made Cabinet Minister under it.

All Advice Only for Others

It is the same BJP that used to dispense advice on the workings of a coalition alliance to Congress-led UPA, but as opposed to the Vajpayee government, in the Modi government it is the allies who are the most neglected and angry. Akali, the oldest ally of the NDA, is also showing signs of discomfit in the last year of elections. In February 2018, Akali MP Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa had said:

When Atal Bihari Vajpayee was prime minister, he used to take all allied parties together. But Modi doesn’t give us the importance.

Telugu Desam Party president Chandrababu Naidu has, in fact, formally left the NDA. Meanwhile, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh have laid the foundation for an Opposition alliance against the BJP. With all this going on, the BJP wants to pacify allies via the Cabinet reshuffle and set up social engineering in the states before 2019. For this, formal talks will be initiated with the allies.

Previous Shuffles

The Modi Cabinet has seen three major changes so far:

  • First – 9 November, 2014
  • Second – 5 July, 2016
  • Third – 3 September, 2017

Minor changes on 13 May 2018 saw Smriti Irani being removed from the Information and Broadcasting Ministry.

At present, there are 78 members in the Cabinet, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This number can go up to 82, meaning there is space for four more ministers. Although PM Modi has spoken a lot about Minimum Government, Maximum Governance, with just a year to go till the next elections, there will be less work and more politics.

(This copy was first published on Quint Hindi and has been translated by Mariam Shaheen)

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