Rajat Sharma

History has taken a new turn with Modi 2.0 cabinet formation

AK__B (007)On Thursday evening, when I witnessed the swearing-in ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan, I realized that history has taken a new turn as far as cabinet formation at the Centre is concerned.

Gone were the days of hectic lobbying to become ministers.New MPs used to take the help of industrialists, senior leaders and even journalists to get plum posts.Not a single MP or minister lobbied this time for plum posts, nor did anybody try to push forward recommendations. Not a single person present at the swearing-in ceremony, except of course the PM, knew who was going to get which portfolio.

I had been closely observing politics for the last 45 years, but I never witnessed such suspense. Most of the speculations about portfolios were later found to be incorrect.

The ground reality is: lobbyists in the corridors of power in Delhi have now become unemployed, thanks to a single man, Modi. The real credit, however, goes to the voters of India who gave Modi a massive mandate as a strong Prime Minister. The results will be there for all to see in the coming five years.

The biggest surprise was the induction of S. Jayashankar, former Foreign Secretary, as India’s External Affairs Minister. Modi had appreciated Jayashankar’s work as foreign secretary, when he used to accompany him on foreign visits to meet world leaders like Barack Obama, Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping. Modi has appointed him EAM because he works quietly, thinks out of the box and is a great strategist. India has big trade issues coming up with the US and India under Modi has to forge strong relations with the US, China, Russia, Japan and other powers. Since Modi is already in the elite group of world leaders, he needs men like Jayashankar to assist him in matters relating to world affairs. If India is to become a world power, it needs strategists and diplomats of the calibre of Jayashankar.

Those who think that Nirmala Sitharaman as Finance Minister will prove to be a poor substitute to Arun Jaitley are going to be proved wrong. They do not know much about her calibre. She took charge of Defence portfolio, and performed with aplomb. She replied to Rahul Gandhi’s charges on Rafale deal in Parliament with conviction. She had good counselling from Arun Jaitley during this period.

As far as Finance ministry is concerned, she had already held the Commerce and Corporate Affairs portfolios in the past. You may recollect that Arun Jaitley, who is presently recovering from treatment, had written to the Prime Minister, offering help to the party and government, even while being confined to his home. At the swearing-in ceremony, I was told by many that they sorely feel the absence of Jaitley, but I know he is not a person to sit idle at home. Even if doctors advise him to take complete rest, he is surely going to remain active, and Nirmala Sitharaman should have nothing to worry about.

About other ministers, I can only say that Modi is a man who always tries new experiments, has new ideas and gives chances to new persons to take up new challenges. Normally big leaders do not take such risks, but Modi is totally different. Modi assigns work to those ministers whom he believes they can perform. There were expectations that Modi would give chance to more MPs from Bengal to become ministers, but since most of them are first time MPs, he wants them to understand the working of the system in Lutyens zone first.

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