Rajat Sharma

Only Modi has the guts to do it!

AKBFor the first time in the history of independent India, an entire cabinet was dropped and was replaced by ministers, most of them first-timers. This novel experiment took place on Tuesday in Gujarat. Twenty-four “new faces”, most of them first-time MLAs, were sworn in, replacing all 22 ministers of the erstwhile Vijay Rupani cabinet.

Among the ministers dropped were several heavyweights, like former deputy CM Nitin Patel, Pradipsinh Jadeja, Saurabh Patel, Bhupendrasinh Chudasama, Kaushik Patel, Dilip Thakore, Jayesh Radadia and R C Faldu. These political heavyweights commanded tremendous influence not only in their constituency but in the entire region, and several of them were in the running for the post of Chief Minister, when Bhupendra Patel was suddenly selected for the job on Sunday.

To remove such political heavyweights from the cabinet and persuading them to quit was a tough job. Each one of them had decades of experience in governance during more than two decades of BJP’s rule in Gujarat. Political pundits are stunned over the sudden replacement of the entire cabinet. Among the newcomers, nearly a dozen ministers, including the Chief Minister, are first-time legislators, who have no experience in governance.

At the oath taking ceremony in Gandhinagar, most of the new ministers and former ministers along with other guests looked surprised over the new development. Former CM Vijay Rupani and former deputy CM Nitin Patel were among the first to arrive at the Raj Bhavan. Ten ministers of cabinet rank and 14 ministers of state, among them five with independent charge, were sworn in. Among the new ministers, three, Rajendra Trivedi, Raghavji Patel and Kirit Singh Rana, had been ministers in the past. The remaining 21 have become ministers for the first time. Rajendra Trivedi had to resign from the post of Speaker on Tuesday, to take oath as a minister. Jitu Vaghani, a first timer, has been the state party unit chief.

The Patel community has been given the largest representation in the cabinet. There are eight ministers from Patidar Patel community apart from the CM, who himself hails from Patidar community. Eight ministers from OBC (other backward classes) have been inducted from Koli, Thakore and Kshatriya caste groups. Two each have been inducted from scheduled caste and Brahmins, and one from Jain community. Region wise, there are seven ministers each from Saurashtra, central and south Gujarat, and three from north Gujarat.

Normally, composing a cabinet based on region and caste is the traditional method, followed since decades, but this time, the Ahir community lost its representation because of replacement of all ex-ministers. There are only two Ahir MLAs in BJP, and both were ministers in Rupani cabinet. Both of them have been dropped.
In his congratulatory tweet, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said: “Congratulations to all Party colleagues who have taken oath as Ministers in the Gujarat Government. These are outstanding Karyakartas who have devoted their lives to public service and spreading our Party’s development agenda. Best wishes for a fruitful tenure ahead.”

In my career, I have seen many chief ministers replaced by their party leaderships, but this is the first time that the entire cabinet including the chief minister was replaced. This has never happened before. One requires strong will power and political courage to implement such a decision. Only a leader of Narendra Modi’s calibre can make such an audacious experiment.
Making a cabinet is not an easy task. Several permutations and combinations are kept in mind while forming a cabinet. While dropping some one with experience, one has to take into account whether the leader may quit the party in a huff. One should also keep in mind whether by dropping a minister, supporters in his constituency may take up a warring path. The support base of a leader is weighed before he or she is made a minister. But Narendra Modi did not bother at all about such ifs and buts.
Modi was chief minister of Gujarat for 13 years. He has been prime minister for the last seven years. He knows each and every leader and prominent party worker in Gujarat. He personally knows all the 22 ministers who were dropped. Several of them are still close to him and had worked with him when he was the CM.

Not every leader can muster courage to drop ministers who are supposed to be very close. Modi has that courage. He did not bother, which leader was close to him and who was not. As far as experience in governance is concerned, Modi himself had no such experience when he was made the CM in 2001. He was never a corporator, a councillor, an MLA or an MP when he was made the CM. At that time, he had practically no insider knowledge about how a bureaucracy functions.

Modi was made the CM by removing a heavyweight politician with decades of experience like Keshubhai Patel. Once Modi was made CM, he never looked back. He took his party to newer heights. While saying this, one has to exercise some caution. Not every person can become a Narendra Modi. One may require vision and courage to match him. Modi has added a new chapter to India’s legislative history by replacing an entire cabinet. This is bound to have repercussions on Indian politics, in future.

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