BY SHAILESH RANADE
By lunch time on 16 May 2014, Indians who had voted for change had some hopes. By breakfast time on 27 May 2014, those hopes were partially eclipsed by some strange appointments.
It is now quite clear that Dr. Manmohan Singh (MMS) was never the Prime Minister of India. He only sat on the Prime Ministerial chair. He was defeated in the only general election he participated in 1999. The BJP’s main theme during the UPA’s 10 year rule was that MMS was never elected. But Mr. Narendra Modi conveniently discarded this principle by appointing two defeated Lok Sabha aspirants as cabinet ministers. There are still some who are not even Members of Parliament.
A cursory look at the Union Cabinet does not generate much confidence. It does not give Indians much hope. It is felt that there is not going to be any realistic change. Most ministers are first timers who have no clue of what their ministry is about. Some citizenry argued that the Aam Admi Party members were like drivers with a learner’s licence. Modi’s cabinet very much resembles the AAP group.
There is no doubt that Narendra Modi is a proven administrator and well qualified to be the PM. In fact, he is the only PM material today this country has. He may have governed Gujarat from Gandhinagar effectively. Can he do the same for India from Delhi? India in 2014, is not a one man show. It is impossible for Modi to pay attention to all of India even if he were to work 24 x 7 x 365. Professional and able aides can make his task easier.
The Union Cabinet has 46 ministers. With the sole exception of Modi, the only other minister who can professionally handle his ministry is Dr. Harsh Vardhan as Minister for Health and Family Welfare. The first off the block, to criticize this Modi ministry was Ms. Madhu Kishwar who came down heavily on Ms. Smriti Irani and her lack of qualifications to head the HRD Ministry. Kishwar has a valid point. A person who has no clue about higher education cannot obviously be her own minister. She will have to depend upon the same vile bureaucrats who have not done any sensible work for decades.
The next high profile target is obviously Mr. Arun Jaitley, who is a lawyer by profession and currently holding the dual charge of Finance and Defence. It is any body’s guess where a person who was running from court to court till recently was educated in finance and defence matters. His first test was the affidavit presented in the Court by his own MoD. Whether the MoD bureaucrats consulted him or not is another matter. As the Defence Minister he has to take full responsibility for this shoddy and terrible work. It is unbelievable that a government affidavit slams another minister in the same government. The Defence Minister has flunked badly. The Finance and Defence ministry cupboards are full of UPA skeletons. Is Arun Jaitley a plant of the previous regime? Why is Modi a party to this? What are Modi’s compulsions? Is any external power involved?
How about the Minister for Ganga Rejuvenation? For someone who works in fits and starts, is Ms. Uma Bharati even suitable for a job that is likely to last over ten years. Modi has a dream to bring the Bullet Train technology to India. The new Railway Minister from Karnataka would not even know the width of a broad gauge railway track, let alone the horsepower of a Rajdhani diesel engine. Delhi and its surrounding areas have been affected by severe power cuts in recent days. The Union Power Minister is a professional chartered accountant. Can he even understand how power is generated and a few technical terms in power management? He has already started blaming the previous government. How is he different from his illustrious predecessor Sushil Kumar Shinde?
As PM, Narendra Modi has huge human resources at his command. Gen VK Singh is a professional soldier and would be the ideal person to clean up the MoD. If the unelected could be made ministers, why leave out Dr. Subramanian Swamy, who is a trained economist. Many of his pre-election ideas may, now, not be implemented when the budget is presented. Surely, other professionals like Arun Shourie and Elattuvalapil Sreedharan too could easily have been brought into the Cabinet. The era of generalists is over. Unless ministers and bureaucrats are professionally qualified in their duties, nothing much is likely to change. The ministers need to be in charge and must question their bureaucrats regularly. This is possible only if they are one step ahead of the bureaucrats. If political pressures are putting Modi into a corner, then the least the PM can do is to include these experts as secretaries or advisers to the government. The Modi Cabinet must be professionally smart.
Narendra Modi swept to power largely on the basis of promises. Doling out ministries to ill qualified persons is not the way to the common man’s heart. There is no doubt that the PM is an innovator and people earnestly wish him to succeed. It is his ministers who are likely to let him down and ground his ship. A couple of incidents and unnecessary blabbering in the last two weeks prove this. One could argue that the Modi Cabinet is alike a toddler who is learning to walk. Well, the toddler has already fallen a couple of times and broken a few bones. A limping toddler may not have a very bright future when surrounded by enemies.
(Shailesh Ranade is a Guest Blogger with the Canary Trap. The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Canary Trap or any employee thereof)