Home / Politics / Policy /  Narendra Modi cuts cabinet size to smallest in 16 years

New Delhi: Narendra Modi reduced India’s cabinet to the smallest in 16 years in what he called an unprecedented overhaul of the nation’s top decision-making body as he officially became prime minister.

Modi will be in charge of all important policy issues and any unallocated portfolios, the president’s office said in a statement on Tuesday.

Arun Jaitley—named finance, defence and corporate affairs minister—said on Tuesday his priorities include restoring economic growth, containing inflation and fiscal consolidation.

“The mandate which our government has received has an inbuilt hope in it," Jaitley told reporters in televised comments upon taking office. “I’m sure that a political change itself sends a strong signal to the global community as well as domestic investors."

Modi has vowed to reduce the size of India’s government to revive Asia’s third-biggest economy after winning a parliamentary majority in the nation for the first time in 30 years. He faces the challenge of reducing the region’s second- fastest inflation and pushing through a backlog of stalled projects valued at more than $200 billion.

“A smaller cabinet is a good thing because it will streamline decision-making," said A.S. Narang, professor of political science at the New Delhi-based Indira Gandhi National Open University. “In the past, there have been multiple authorities and clashes between different departments."

Nawaz Sharif attends

Modi’s cabinet was sworn in last night before more than 3,000 guests, including Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and other regional leaders, in front of the presidential palace in New Delhi. This was the smallest cabinet since the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) last prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee inducted 21 cabinet ministers in 1998.

Sushma Swaraj became foreign minister and Rajnath Singh will head the home ministry, according to the statement. Harsh Vardhan will take over the health ministry, Nitin Gadkari will run the roads, shipping and highways ministry and D.V. Sadananda Gowda will head the railways ministry. Narendra Singh Tomar will be in charge of the mines, steel and labor ministries.

In a statement released shortly after he was sworn in, Modi said the nation of 1.2 billion people delivered a mandate for economic development stability and good governance. His BJP won a parliamentary majority, the first time a single party has done so in India in three decades.

‘Glorious future’

“Together we will script a glorious future for India," Modi said in a statement posted on his website. “Let us dream of a strong, developed and inclusive India that actively engages with the global community to strengthen the cause of world peace and development."

President Pranab Mukherjee swore in 23 cabinet ministers on Monday, down from 34 under the last government of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2009. During the campaign Modi promoted a message of minimum government, maximum governance.

Modi, 63, won after making campaign promises of a stronger economy, more jobs, better roads and a high-speed rail network. His BJP won 282 seats of the 543 up for grabs, ousting the Congress party that’s ruled independent India for most of its history.

Modi vowed to work for the nation’s poor in a 20 May address to BJP lawmakers. His campaign resonated with voters as well as investors, with the benchmark stock index rising to a record high and the rupee strengthening.

His policies over the next few months will have significant implications for the nation’s credit rating, Standard and Poor’s said on 16 May. The company had said it might downgrade Asia’s third-biggest economy to junk status if the next government is unable to revive growth and improve public finances.

“The Modi era begins with high hopes," said Satish Misra, a political analyst at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi. There is no scope for an excuse for him after getting a huge mandate to run the country. Bloomberg

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