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Modi 3.0 Cabinet: 'Business as Usual' Message, Differential Treatment to Allies

Sticking to familiar faces in the same roles, Modi is asserting that his regime is working as per a long-term plan.

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With the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) allies displaying deference to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the portfolios of ministers, unveiled 24 hours after the oath-taking ceremony, reveal an assertive stamp of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on the new government. The Council of Ministers headed by the prime minister reveals the BJP’s undiluted sense of political assertiveness after the 2024 Lok Sabha verdict.

The ruling party has taken extra care to send out a message of disdain to the popular commentary in the aftermath of the election it is now on a downhill journey from its peak in 2019.

The pre-emptive posturing of the BJP through the portfolio distribution is evidently aimed to bolster Modi's image, as well as deny the space to the allies for any misadventure. ‘Modi ka parivar’ was the top slogan of the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections. The Council of Ministers, as well as the portfolio distribution, is an endorsement of ‘Modi ka parivar’.
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Continuity for ‘Business as Usual’ Message

Largely, the Council of Ministers consists of key ministers with familiar responsibilities. Not only the top four positions (Home, Defence, Finance, and External Affairs) who constitute the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), but even others have retained their positions. Additionally, BJP chief Jagat Prakash Nadda returned to the Cabinet with his previous portfolio, i.e., Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

By sticking with familiar faces in the same positions, Modi is clearly asserting that his government is working as per a long-term plan in which ministers have identified roles to play. This should be apparent with the often-stated assertions of Modi about ‘Viksit Bharat by 2047’ and ‘Amrit Kaal’.

Thus, as many as 15 ministers will continue with their respective portfolios from the previous to the new government.

Union Ministers Rajnath Singh, Amit Shah, S Jaishankar, Nirmala Sitharaman, and Nitin Gadkari represented the top order of ‘Team Modi’ in the second term. They hogged the limelight for the apparent spotlight on their respective ministries.

But the middle order had shown vulnerabilities. The farmers’ agitations cast long shadows on the government. The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, Power, Housing, and others faded from popular attention.

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Modi Rejigs Middle Order After Poll Setback

Modi may hope that Shivraj Singh Chauhan and Manohar Lal Khattar will bring strength to the middle order. The prime minister will count on Chauhan’s credentials of leading Madhya Pradesh with high agriculture growth during his long stints as the chief minister.

It may be worth mentioning that Chauhan headed a panel constituted by the Governing Council of the NITI Aayog to suggest a roadmap for the convergence of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) with agriculture. The report has not yet been implemented.

Also, Modi’s bid to usher in agrarian reforms invited the ire of farmers. But he may not give up on his notions of reform in this sector. With Chauhan in the lead, the prime minister may attempt incremental and non-confrontationist reforms in agriculture.

Khattar’s big talking points from his stints as Haryana's chief minister have been power reform, as well as mapping of the land records in the state.

He often shares tales of BJP MLAs begging him not to come to villages after his government began disconnecting illegal power connections. However, Khattar shares in interactions that the villagers eventually embraced his idea when he asserted that eliminating power theft would ensure a 24-hour electricity supply.

Khattar’s other talking point is his government employing satellite mapping of land records to eliminate property disputes. Modi replicated Haryana’s initiative on the national stage with the Swamitva Scheme. Modi has entrusted him with portfolios of Ministries of Power and Housing. Both the ministries are on the radar of the prime minister for new initiatives.
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Differential Treatment to NDA Allies

The portfolio distribution reveals that the BJP is nonchalant in its approach to the Janata Dal (United), the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), and the Shiv Sena led by Eknath Shinde. The three parties have a combined strength of 36 MPs in the Lok Sabha.

Against the demand of the Ministry of Railways, stated publicly by some in the ranks of the JD(U), Nitish Kumar's nominee in the Council of Ministers, Rajiv Ranjan alias Lalan Singh, will man the Ministries of Panchayati Raj, Fisheries, and Animal Husbandry. Singh had been sharply critical of the BJP in the past until the JD(U) revived ties with the saffron party.

The Shinde Sena, despite winning eight Lok Sabha seats, was treated with disdain. The party’s nominee Prataprao Ganpatrao Jadhav got the MoS independent charge for the Ministry of Ayush. K Rammohan Reddy of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) will helm the Ministry of Civil Aviation.

In contrast, the BJP has treated Hindustan Awami Morcha (HAM), Lok Jan Shakti Party (Ram Vilas), Janata Dal (Secular), and Rashtriya Lok Dal with evident appreciation, despite the parties winning far fewer Lok Sabha seats. The profile of the ministries allocated to these parties accord them a sharp spotlight in contrast to the JD(U) and the TDP.

The lone MP of the Hindustan Awami Morcha (HAM) will helm the Ministry of Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSME). Kumaraswamy will helm Ministries of Steel and Heavy Industries. Chirag Paswan gets the Ministry of Food Processing.
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Modi has shown faith in continuity, caste equations, and experience in picking up nominees in the new council. A lateral entry failed to impress the prime minister, unlike in the past when Jaishankar, Hardeep Singh Puri, and Rajeev Chandrashekhar bagged coveted positions.

While 39 in the present cabinet had helmed ministries in the past, 43 have been members of parliament for three or more terms. Also, 42 ministers represent the other backward castes, the scheduled castes, and the scheduled tribes.

(The author is a senior Delhi-based journalist. This is an opinion article and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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