PM Modi takes oath for 3rd time: Politics behind the Cabinet picks

English | 10 June, 2024 | 10:24 AM
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NEW DELHI: Narendra Modi was, on Sunday, sworn in as prime minister for the third time, equalling Jawaharlal Nehru’s record of three straight terms in the top office. With 72 members including him, Modi’s latest team is bigger than the previous two, and, contrary to speculation, he had little difficulty in putting together the council of ministers despite leading a coalition govt.TDP and JD (U), in particular, chose not to haggle, as was generally expected after voters denied BJP an absolute majority.

1. BJP is boss: Short of a majority, needing allies, Modi chose to signal the new govt is still his govt, not one created by bargain-hunting allies. Not just the top cabinet jobs — home, finance, defence, foreign affairs — BJP will likely retain most heavyweight ministries.

2. Allies look for govt funds: One reason TDP and JDU didn’t push a hard bargain was that Naidu and Nitish decided fights with BJP over ministries weren’t worth it if in return they can extract more govt cash for their states, even if Bihar, Andhra don’t get special category status.

3. Fewer coalition shocks: At least to begin with, allies going along with BJP’s dominance of key jobs means the govt can function without too many disruptions and policy reversals typical of other coalition regimes.

4. Ex-CMs add heft: Of course, PMO will call the shots. But the inclusion of six former chief ministers will bring administrative and policymaking experience to the council of ministers, especially since several of them have helmed big, complicated states.

5. Eye on polls: Three states —Haryana, Maharashtra, Jharkhand — face polls this year. Ministers from Haryana signal BJP intends to stay with the same social engineering formula that helped it build a non-Jat coalition. That Praful Patel’s comments on not taking up a ministerial post were made in the presence of BJP netas reflects NDA’s keenness to keep the Maharashtra alliance intact. And picks from Jharkhand point to BJP’s strategy of shoring up non-tribal groups.

6. Absent Muslims: Modi’s third govt will begin with not a single Muslim minister. This may change later. But as of now, a council of ministers without any Muslims may be read by some in the context of the community’s near-total support for the opposition in the elections.

7. Hello super rich, hello Hindus: That Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani were both among invitees shows Modi isn’t keeping these billionaires away just because the opposition made ‘crony capitalism’ a big campaign theme. And the sizeable presence of Hindu civil society groups means concessions, if any, on BJP’s core Hindutva agenda will be minor.

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