Will cabinet reshuffle help Modi sarkar regain its lost glory before 2019 Lok Sabha polls?
New Delhi, Sep 4: Since the past few days (well, after the violence in Haryana due to the conviction and sentencing of rapist and godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh and Mumbai deluge), the buzz has been about the final cabinet reshuffle of the Narendra Modi government before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Finally, it took place on Sunday, just hours before Prime Minister Modi left for the Chinese port city of Xiamen to attend the ninth BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Summit.
The new Modi cabinet after the reshuffle--with the elevation of a few loyalists, removal of a few non-performers, introduction of a few new faces and retention of a few old guards--looks like a smart packaging of a mixed bag of people done by the PM and his Friday man and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah to add a new vigour to the saffron regime before the big battle of the 2019 General elections.
Among a series of pictures posted by the Press Information Bureau (PIB), the nodal media agency of the government of India, on Twitter, a group photograph where Modi, President Ram Nath Kovind and Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu (seen at the centre) along with prominent names from the present Union cabinet tries to give an impression to the nation that the current regime at the Centre means business.
The reshuffle has come at a time when the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government is facing severe criticism over its economic policies (failure of demonetisation and the dismal Gross Domestic Product (GDP) data, among others), law and order problems (failure of the BJP government in Haryana to stop the mayhem that led to the death of at least 38 people after the sentencing of Ram Rahim Singh) stand of the government on the issue of right to privacy (the Supreme Court has recently declared that the right to privacy is a fundamental right, a fact opposed by the Centre), regular terrorists attacks in Jammu and Kashmir, mob lynchings in the name of cow protection, and the Maharashtra's BJP-led government's lackadaisical attitude towards Mumbai floods, to name a few.
The saving grace for the government came recently as the standoff between India and China in Doklam ended after 73 days which is seen as a major diplomatic victory of Modi regime over the mighty China.
The recent striking down of the instant triple talaq--an age-old practice which allows Muslim men to divorce their wives instantly by uttering the word talaq (divorce) three times--by the Supreme Court is another victory of the Modi government as it has always supported a ban on the practice. Thus the verdict is seen as another feather in the Modi government's cap.
Now, the question is: was the reshuffle really necessary? Actually, reshuffle should have happened long back, probably back in March after former defence minister Manohar Parrikar left his job to don the hat of the chief minister of Goa.
After Parrikar's departure from the ministry, finance minister Arun Jaitley was immediately brought in to fill up the vacancy. However, it has always been clear that the defence ministry was given to Jaitley on an ad hoc basis. Moreover, Jaitley had the responsibility of the finance ministry (which he still has).
Both the jobs are demanding and clearly Jaitley who knew that the defence portfolio is not his main job, thus the ministry got neglected as we saw rise in the number of border skirmishes, both in the Pakistani and Chinese fronts.
Then, what took the Modi government almost six months to give India a new defence minister? As it can be seen, it was definitely not the urgency to make amends in the all-important defence ministry that Nirmala Sitharaman was given the job.
Here the agenda of reshuffle is not about one ministry, one person or one post. Modi and Shah, the duo known as election-winning machines, have clearly done the arithmetic of reorganisation of the cabinet eyeing the crucial 2019 elections.
So, was it all about a step forward by the Modi regime to capture the polls again in 2019? Or, was the cabinet rejig merely an eyewash to keep the nation's attention diverted from real problems?
Whatever may be the reason, the fact is that this cabinet has to perform well to help the BJP emerge as the winner in 2019 elections. Since, all the talks about cabinet reshuffle has been about performance of the ministers in various departments, all the new and old guards of the cabinet have a tough and arduous task to bring hope to the country by strengthening its economy, creating jobs, maintaining law and order situation, bringing down the attacks of terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir and controlling right-wing groups from taking up violence to fulfill their agenda, to name a few.
As around 19 months are left for the next General elections, it is all about perform or perish for the Modi sarkar.