Prime Minister Narendra Modi and 57 ministers were sworn in on the evening of Thursday, 30 May, and the second ministry bears a clear stamp of the prime minister even more than the first one.
Backed by the victory of 303 BJP candidates, Modi has rewarded loyalty and performance over the need to accommodate allies and any other power centres. There are four ways we can look at PM Modi’s ministerial picks.
Change & Continuity
Senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley won’t be part of the new government. This is a major generational change for the BJP, as these two leaders were BJP general secretaries along with Modi in the late 1990s. The only senior leader from that generation to find place in the government is Rajnath Singh, who will once again be the number two in the new government. He was sworn in just after PM Modi.
However, the third minister to be sworn in was Amit Shah.
Though Shah was always the number two in the party after PM Modi, his being sworn in ahead of other senior ministers like Nitin Gadkari sends a clear signal that he will now wield significant clout in the government.
Several other ministers from the last ministry have found a prominent place in the new government, such as Nirmala Sitharaman, Smriti Irani, Prakash Javadekar, DV Sadananda Gowda, Narendra Singh Tomar, Ram Vilas Paswan, Harsimrat Badal, Ravi Shankar Prasad and Thawarchand Gehlot, to name a few.
Besides Amit Shah, the most important new induction is former foreign secretary S Jaishankar. It was known that he would play a key role in the new government, but his appointment as a Cabinet minister came as a surprise to many.
Several ministers were dropped, some of them supposedly due to non-performance. These include outgoing Agriculture Minister Radhamohan Singh, Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi, Information and Broadcasting Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Civil Aviation Minister Jayant Sinha, Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu, Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma and Minister of State SS Ahluwalia.
Another significant omission is Health Minister JP Nadda. An RSS man, he is tipped to take over as BJP president from Amit Shah.
Allies Shown Their Place
Another clear trend was the BJP asserting itself vis-a-vis its allies. It began with the Janata Dal (United) – which won 16 Lok Sabha seats – deciding to stay away from the government reportedly because the BJP was offering them just one Cabinet berth.
Similarly, the AIADMK’s sole MP, P Raveendranath Kumar, who was expected to join the government, wasn’t given a place. Kumar is the son of Tamil Nadu Deputy CM O Panneerselvam.
Even with the Shiromani Akali Dali, the BJP seems to have conveyed that it plans to assert itself in Punjab. The Akalis will have just one minister like last time – Harsimrat Badal – but the BJP has given positions to two of its own Punjab faces, Hardeep Puri and Hoshiarpur MP Som Prakash.
The only Shiv Sena leader to find a place in the Modi cabinet is South Mumbai MP Arvind Sawant. This appears to be the BJP’s way of restricting the Sena to just Mumbai, and projecting its own faces from rest of the state. Several BJP leaders from Maharashtra were included in the council of ministers, such as Gadkari, Javadekar, Raosaheb Danve and Sanjay Dhotre. RPI leader Ramdas Athawale has also been included under the BJP quota.
Danve’s inclusion is particularly significant as he is said to have had a troubled relationship with many top Sena leaders.
Another ally to be sidelined is the Apna Dal, whose leader Anupriya Patel hasn’t been included in the ministry.
The treatment given to the allies is a clear message from the BJP that they are completely at PM Modi’s mercy.
Predictably, Uttar Pradesh has the largest contingent at nine ministers, including PM Modi, Rajnath Singh, Smriti Irani, Mahendra Nath Pandey, Santosh Gangwar, VK Singh, Niranjan Jyoti and Sanjeev Balyan.
Maharashtra, which goes to polls later this year, has been given eight slots. The BJP’s aggressive position in Maharashtra indicates that it would either go it alone in the state or ensure that it plays big brother vis-a-vis the Sena.
Surprisingly, Bengal, where the BJP is trying to dislodge the the ruling TMC, has been given just two MoS slots: Babul Supriyo and Deboshree Chowdhury.
There is no minister from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, where the NDA was almost wiped out. The only Malayali minister is BJP Kerala leader V Muraleedharan, who is a Rajya Sabha MP from Maharashtra.
Similarly, there are only two ministers from the Northeast – Kiren Rijiju from Arunachal Pradesh, and Rameshwar Teli from Assam. None of the BJP’s allies from the Northeast have been accommodated.
Low Share of Minorities, Adivasis and Dalits
Out of 58 ministers, only three belong to religious minorities. Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi is the only Muslim and there are two Sikhs, Harsimrat Badal and Hardeep Puri. There were four Sikhs, two Muslims and one Christian in Modi’s first tenure.
Similarly, there are just two Adivasi ministers – Faggan Singh Kulaste from MP and Arjun Munda from Jharkhand, despite the massive support the BJP got from tribals. There are six Dalits in Modi’s list of 58 ministers.
This means that the remaining 47 out of 58 ministers are either upper saste or OBC Hindus.
It is clear that PM Modi and the BJP have chosen to reward the party’s core states in Northern, Central and Western India, as well as its core support bases – upper sastes and OBCs. In the process, minorities, Adivasis, Dalits, North East India and much of South India will remain underrepresented.
The other main takeaway is that with Rajnath Singh and Nitin Gadkari being the only ministers with some clout independent of Modi, power in the government will get even more consolidated in the hands of the PMO and Amit Shah than even during Modi’s first tenure.