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Decoding the cabinet reshuffle with psephologist Dr Sandeep Shastri

By Vicky

Political statecraft, assertive and a clear message, "perform of perish." This is what some of India's top experts term the recent Cabinet Reshuffle by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

It is a cleverly planned political strategy which while inducting a large number of ministers has also managed to keep cabinet the core decision making body small inn size.

cabinet reshuffle

Dr Sandeep Shastri, one of India's leading psephologists and political commentators took time off to discuss with OneIndia the cabinet reshuffle. He says that the real story is not the induction of the ministers, but the reshuffle. Dr Shastri also goes on to add that it is probably for the first time in two decades that we have witnessed a Prime Minister being assertive.

A cleverly planned political strategy:

This in my view is a cleverly planned political strategy. The new ministers inducted are all in the rank of Minister of State barring one who was promoted to the Cabinet rank. What Modi has managed to do is keep the Cabinet small. In inducting new ministers he has provided political accommodation and on the other he has ensured that the core decision making body which is the Cabinet has remained small says Dr Shastri.

If you look at the reshuffle there has also been a loyalty and credibility test. Modi has taken into account a lot of factors. Are they capable of performing and can they demonstrate total loyalty to the leadership? These are also two factors that have gone into the entire exercise.

I see a complete Modi hand in this entire exercise. I think for the first time in two decades we are seeing a Prime Minister who is extremely assertive. Right from the time of V P Singh there have been Prime Ministers who have had the compulsion of coalition governments. Even in the case of P V Narasimha Rao there were certain compulsions.

The real story is the rejig:

The real story of the exercise is not the induction of the new ministers. It is the reshuffle that is the real story. Clearly emphasis has been placed on performance. The reshuffle according to me is political statecraft says Dr Shastri.

Those ministers who do not believe in team work or those who have worked in isolation have been pushed to minor portfolios. Certain ministers have been given more responsibility and key portfolios because they can deliver.

The exercise aims at refurbishing the image of the government. It is an interesting and judicious exercise and also sends a message to many to either perform or exit. Some have even been given a final opportunity and I feel that down the line he could drop some ministers as well.

The Ananth Kumar factor:

Ananth Kumar being made the Parliamentary affairs minister is also a subject of debate. According to me he has been given the portfolio because of his experience. He has had an uninterrupted run in the Lok Sabha for almost 20 years. Naidu too may have been effective as a Parliamentary Affairs minister. But he is a Rajya Sabha member.

While the Rajya Sabha is important, a Parliamentary Affairs minister has more work in the Lok Sabha and hence Ananth Kumar made more sense. Moreover Kumar has a good track record of being an effective negotiator across political parties

The Smiti Irani factor:

One could always use a mask to defend why she had been changed. If you look at the HRD ministry it has always been among the top six portfolios. One cannot argue that the HRD ministry carries the same weight as a textile ministry. If you look at the Textile ministry it has always been given to a junior cabinet minister or someone who is a minister of state holding independent charge.

Clearly those who have spent more time in the press have been frowned upon. The government has been getting some wrong visibility and hence this was a suave political move to indicate to a colleague that he or she has to either perform of perish.

A message has been sent that the way in which the ministry was managed was not up to expectations. She has been given a second chance in the case of Sadananda Gowda one could say it is a third.

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