NEW DELHI: With a gargantuan majority at his disposal, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has a huge gene pool to choose from and reward as he goes about appointing members to his new Camelot. However, with PM Modi, no one can second-guess him. At the same time, speculation is rife in Delhi’s political circles on the composition of the new Cabinet.
For starters, one will have to look at the Big Four – members of the all important Cabinet Committee on Security. In the erstwhile Cabinet there were two women. Apparently, former Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje may be sounded out for the External Affairs Ministry while giant killer Smriti Irani, who toppled Congress President Rahul Gandhi from his pocket borough of Amethi, may get the plum post of Raksha Mantri. Many aspirations and ambitions have to be fulfilled while hard work and perseverance will need to be rewarded.
The PM may also be looking at certain technocrats to push his JAM policy where the tri-junction of Jan, Aadhar and Mobile meet. This has paid handsome dividends at the bottom of the pyramid and in more ways than one given a sense of liberation and purpose to rural women. As such, one shouldn’t be surprised if there is a Make in India, Skill Development and other such nomenclatures in the new Cabinet.
Grapevine also indicates that NSA Ajit Doval may be one of the contenders for the Defence Minister’s job. He could even be sent to Washington as India’s ambassador to the US. Adding a twist to the permutations and combinations, if BJP President Amit Shah is inducted into the Cabinet, he may get one of the most crucial portfolios out of three – Home, Defence or even Finance.
In whatever role the PM assigns him, he will be pushing the rollout agenda of the PM’s pet schemes aggressively. In the eventuality that he joins the Cabinet, given the nature of Indian polity where the country lurches from one election to another and the whirligig is more often than not year round; Dharmendra Pradhan or Bhupendra Yadav may get the nod for the party top job.
Health minister J.P. Nadda is another name doing the rounds. National General Secretary and a Rajya Sabha MP from Himachal Pradesh, Nadda is known as a master strategist in his party. The party had given him charge of Uttar Pradesh in the recently concluded hustings. The party bagged 62 out of 80 Lok Sabha seats.
Meanwhile, Pradhan cut his teeth in the Bihar Lok Sabha elections 2014 and once again, this time in his home state Odisha. BJP’s vote share in the Lok Sabha polls in Odisha rose from about 21.9 per cent in 2014 to 38.37 per cent while the ruling BJD’s fell from 44.1 per cent in 2014 to 42.76 per cent.
BJP’s vote share in the Odisha Assembly polls also rose significantly from 18.2 per cent in 2014 to 32.5 per cent in 2019. An RSS member since his student days and a close confidant of both Modi and Shah, Pradhan is expected to play a bigger role in BJP.
Bhupendra Yadav is a Rajya Sabha member, but equally a powerful national general secretary. Fiercely private, like his mentor Amit Shah, Yadav keeps to the confines of the war room, a role that he relishes. Yadav had been the BJP election in-charge for Rajasthan in 2013, Jharkhand in 2014 and Bihar in 2015. While Bihar did not go the way the BJP would have liked, Yadav delivered results for his boss, Shah, in both Rajasthan and Jharkhand.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh may be retained in his present job, but if party President Amit Shah, who has played a monumental role in the BJP returning to power working ceaselessly and tirelessly to put the strategic tent poles in place, joins the Cabinet, the former party president may become the new Speaker of the Lok Sabha.
Railways Minister Piyush Goyal, who served as the interim finance minister when Arun Jaitley was undergoing treatment, may step into his shoes.
However, other names are also doing the rounds for this post. Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad may be moved to a more prominent ministry after his win in Patna Sahib. He was a minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government and became a cabinet minister under Modi. Nitin Gadkari had a number of ministries under him and is credited with most tangible work being done in those departments. He may continue with the work assigned to him. Agriculture will be one of the focus areas and, there is a thinking that a technocrat like Ashok Gulati should be given the job to ameliorate the woes of agrarian India which appears to be in distress mode.
Telecom will have a new minister since Manoj Sinha is one of the prominent losers in the BJP. If Pradhan moves to head the party, then the energy portfolio comprising petroleum and natural gas will also see a new face. Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi may get a cabinet rank this time. He is the most prominent Muslim face in the Modi team. Prakash Javdekar will also be given an important position — he served as HRD Minister in the old Council of Ministers.
With nearly 80 members in the previous Cabinet, lots of faces and names to fill the posts abound. Expect the infusion of new blood and representation to states where the BJP has done exceedingly well — Rajasthan, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Delhi, Jharkhand, Odisha, Telangana, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and equal weight to the allies (a story put out earlier by IANS details that).