Cabinet Reshuffle 2017

On 3/9/2017 at 10.30 a.m. was probably the last major reshuffle of Modi Government before 2019 elections. Nine new ministers were inducted, all Ministers of State. Four Ministers of State were promoted as Cabinet Ministers. Portfolios of some ministers changed.
Most significant change was the promotion of Nirmala Sitharaman as Cabinet Minister with Defence Ministry. She is a lightweight politician given a heavyweight ministry as a counterweight to Sushma Swaraj who is External Affairs Minister. It is strange that Arun Jaitley continued to hold Defence Ministry and left for Japan to meet Shinzo Abe to prepare for his visit to India and Nirmala will take charge of Defence Ministry after Jaitley’s return. Either Nirmala should have gone to Japan or her promotion and change of portfolio should have been after Jaitley’s return.
Piyush Goyal became Railways Minister. Suresh Prabhu got Commerce and Industry. Suresh Prabhu’s change of portfolio from Railways to Commerce was expected as there were three accidents in recent days and he had offered to quit. It is said Modi wanted Nitin Gadkari to become Railways Minister. Gadkari said less than two years are left for next election. There is not much he can do. If there is a road accident, Surface Transport Minister is not blamed for the accident. If there is a Railway accident, Railways Minister is blamed for the accident.
Suresh Prabhu said every ministry is important and his change of portfolio from Railways to Commerce and Industry is not a demotion.
Shiv Sena and JD(U) did not get any ministry. Shiv Sena expected a ministry. There was talk of JD(U) getting a ministry. Modi has made it clear that he is not Atal Behari Vajpayee or Manmohan Singh. He does not need allies. Allies need him. Allies can sulk. He won’t care. BJP has majority on its own in Lok Sabha. Presidential and Vice Presidential elections are over. Shiv Sena has been critical of BJP many times. NCP and TRS had said they are not joining the government.
Two new ministers, Hardeep Singh Puri and Alphons Kannanthanam, are not Members of Parliament. They are likely to be elected to Rajya Sabha. Alphons is from Kerala. His induction is said to be to get Christian votes in Kerala for BJP.
Bandaru Dattatreya, Faggan Singh Kulaste, Kalraj Mishra, Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Sanjiv Kumar Balyan were out. Kalraj Mishra was 77, above the unofficial age limit of 75 of Modi cabinet.
Uma Bharti’s portfolio changed from Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation to Drinking Water and Sanitation. Nitin Gadkari holds additional charge of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation.
The cabinet has right men at the wrong places. Hardeep Singh Puri should have been in External Affairs Ministry. He is given independent charge of Housing and Urban Affairs. Raj Kumar Singh and Satyapal Singh should have been in Home Ministry. Raj Kumar Singh is given independent charge of Power and New and Renewable Energy. Satyapal Singh is MoS in HRD and Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation.
Rajyavardhan Singh is now Sports Minister and right man at the right place. Gen. Vijay Kumar Singh continues to be right man at the wrong place.
Congress said reshuffle was maximum government and no governance. This was against Modi’s slogan “minimum government, maximum governance.”
About Nirmala Sitharaman’s elevation Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said “But, what is interesting is the elevation of Nirmala Sitharaman. This is probably the first instance when somebody has been elevated for non-performance… There is nothing on the balance sheet of the Commerce Minister to justify her promotion.” Referring to free fall of exports and imports for 38 months Tewari said “We only hope she does not do the same thing to the Defence Ministry.”
Sitaram Yechury said the reshuffle was an event management exercise to divert attention from demonetisation disaster. Mayawati said the reshuffle was to divert attention from government’s failure to tackle poverty and unemployment.
Many states do not have full-time Governors. It speaks poorly of Modi Government that it has not found suitable persons to be Governors.

Updated: September 5, 2017 — 7:35 am

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