On 30th of May 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was sworn in as India’s Prime Minister for a second term, after the BJP’s landslide win in the Lok Sabha Elections. Along with this the nation was introduced to the new cabinet, consisting of 24 council ministers and 30 deputy ministers. Big changes and major omissions were observed in the new cabinet especially as a consequence of the major challenges of an increasing unemployment rate and a decreasing GDP. The biggest omission and difference between the first cabinet of ministers and the current cabinet were the missing faces of Arun Jaitley, a headliner in the previous cabinet and Sushma Swaraj whose inclusion in the cabinet was questioned after she did not partake in the election process from her constituency of Vidisha.
The induction of Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, who previously held the position of the Foreign Secretary of India and is an expert on China, as the new Minister of External Affairs, can be forecasted in terms of a greater emphasis on the carrying out of a more effective diplomacy in our neighborhood, and his experience in foreign policy decision making processes makes him a good fit for this portfolio.
Nirmala Sitharaman, who previously held the portfolio of the Ministry of Defence, has been appointed as the new minister of Finance and Corporate Affairs. This appointment is crucial for the nation, as it comes at a time when the nation is in dire need of urgent action from the government to provide an extremely effective strategy to halt the worrying economic slowdown.
The omission of some major players – J. P. Nadda, Suresh Prabhu, Radha Mohan Singh, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Jayant Sinha and Anupriya Patel comes as a surprise in the face of predictions made by political pundits.
Amit Shah’s induction as the new Home Minister poses a critical question as to whether or not he can do for India what he did for the BJP. Now that Amit Shah has taken charge of the Home Ministry, he will have to successfully find a way to further Modi’s nationalist streak on issues of security, immigration and other key national concerns such as the Kashmir situation, the Ram Mandir issue and Articles 370 and 35A, among others.
Rajnath Singh has already assumed his role as the new Defence Minister, his immediate challenge is to act in furtherance of military modernization and manufacturing, and to do this he needs to tend to the defense budget at the earliest, wherein he needs to ensure the allocation of more funding, after the budget allocation in April, which has been at its lowest since 1962. Funds are necessary to make a mark in the area of defense manufacturing as well as modernization, which has seen little progress in the previous term.
Sadananand Gowda, the former chief minister of Karnataka’s inclusion in the cabinet, carries with it a crucial message, using BJP’s impressive performance in Karnataka; Modi is furthering his reach to the Southern States as well.
Smriti Irani’s historical win against Rahul Gandhi in Congress’ erstwhile seat of Amethi makes her a major player in the cabinet. The induction of former Chief Ministers Arjun Munda and Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank shows how merit has been recognized as an important parameter in the choosing of the cabinet ministers.
From the formation of this term’s cabinet, it can be observed that Narendra Modi and the BJP have put some forethought and exercised farsightedness in putting together the council of ministers to achieve their vision for this term.
Some questions are yet to be answered, what will drive Amit Shah in this term- power maximization or the fulfillment of national interest? Whether his governance will cater to the consolidation of power for the BJP or actual effective steps towards inclusivity and security of India, the party in an individual capacity is still faced with the dilemma of choosing a president. If the President continues to be Shah, it will be interesting to observe what he does when he finds himself at a cross roads, and how he then carries out his political duties. For the defense ministry, it is crucial to hold the DAC meeting at the earliest and align the three forces to a common consensus to ensure greater efficiency. It will have to be seen whether this cabinet can hold up to Modi’s promises of development, poverty reduction and belief in democracy, and how efficiently they carry out their nationalist governance in the next five years.