Has Narendra Modi said goodbye to minimum government?
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New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to have kissed goodbye to his promise of “minimum government, maximum governance”, with several ministries having more than one minister of state after Tuesday’s cabinet expansion and portfolio reshuffle.
While the two ministries of agriculture and family welfare and social justice and empowerment now have three ministers of state each as against two each earlier, other important ministries like finance, railways, external affairs and road transport, highways and shipping also have two ministers of state each from one earlier.
Even relatively small ministries like the micro, small and medium enterprises; ministry of housing and urban poverty alleviation; ministry of water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation; and ministry of health and family welfare now have two ministers of state each, up from one earlier.
While this leads to questions over the initial promise of the Modi government of providing “minimum government, maximum governance”, it is also an indication of the priority the Modi government is giving to agriculture and protection of interests of backward classes ahead of the crucial Uttar Pradesh elections next year in which it faces strong regional leaders like Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati.
Modi had said a day earlier that the cabinet expansion, which saw 19 new ministers of state taking oath, will reflect his government’s intention of implementing the budget promises.
After the cabinet expansion, Modi’s government has 77 ministers, excluding the prime minister—27 cabinet ministers and 50 ministers of state, including those with independent charge of ministries—almost equalling the strength of the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.
In contrast, when the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) had come to power in May 2014 and promised a compact government, Modi’s council of ministers’ strength was 45—23 cabinet ministers and 22 ministers of state, of which 10 ministers of state had independent charge. The council of ministers was later expanded in November 2014, taking the total strength to 65, of which 26 were cabinet ministers.
In Modi’s newly expanded cabinet, Dalit leader Ramdas Athawale, Krishan Pal and Vijay Sampla are the three ministers of state, who along with cabinet minister Thaawar Chand Gehlot, will run the ministry of social justice and empowerment.
Parshottam Rupala, S.S. Ahluwalia and Sudarshan Bhagat are the three ministers of state that will run the ministry of agriculture and family welfare along with cabinet minister Radha Mohan Singh.
The trend of having two ministers of state for finance during UPA’s tenure is back with Santosh Kumar Gangwar and Arjun Ram Meghwal appointed as ministers of state for finance, replacing Jayant Sinha who has been shifted to the civil aviation ministry.
Ministry of external affairs also has two ministers of state in V.K. Singh and M.J. Akbar. Manoj Sinha and Rajen Gohain are the two ministers of state in railways. Rao Inderjit Singh and Babul Supriyo are the two ministers of state in urban development and housing and urban poverty alleviation, while Mansukh L. Mandaviya joins Radhakrishnan P. as the second minister of state in the road transport, highways and shipping ministry.