Friday, July 19, 2024

Continuity as mantra


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Continuity is the ‘mantra’ for the third NDA government cobbled together by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi. Major portfolios have been reserved for the second line of leaders in the cabinet. His previous council of ministers too remains largely intact. Admittedly, the seniors in the previous ministry have acquitted themselves well, be it Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh, Nirmala Sitharaman, Nitin Gadkari or S Jaishankar. They formed the bulwark of the Modi government and will remain so hereafter too. Significantly, neither the Telugu Desam nor the JDU could browbeat the NDA leadership or Modi to give them top portfolios. For now, the regional satraps from Bihar and AP are reconciled to what they got but are more interested in claiming special statuses for their states and wresting development funds. However, considering their past proclivities, they would bide their time. For now what the two have stated is they want larger financial allocations and other support for their states. This perhaps is also to keep a door open for an exit at a suitable time by making unreasonable demands and then ditching the NDA for not “protecting and promoting” their states’ interests. That will make them heroes in their states. By all reckoning, Modi kept his composure despite the hit he took this time in terms of the fall in numbers for the BJP in the Lok Sabha.
The unsatisfactory performance of the BJP in the present elections was caused primarily because Modi’s popularity took a hit because of the gap between promise and delivery and the hate speeches spewed by Modi during the campaign trail. The other reason is the failure of the BJP leadership in strengthening the organisational heft after Amit Shah handed over the leadership to JP Nadda. He has been ‘safely’ taken out of that position and given back the health minister’s post this time; a ministry that he had handled earlier.
Among the NDA alliance partners, the JDS from Karnataka got the heavy industries ministry, Telugu Desam from AP the Civil Aviation ministry and JDU of Nitish Kumar took panchayats, fisheries etc — a ‘taming of the shrew’ effect to those who sought portfolios like Finance or Home for themselves. Neither did Shivraj Singh Chouhan get a plum ministry; He has to remain content with the rural development ministry. Clearly, Modi knows who to keep where to safeguard his own long-term interests. Modi is a status quoist. He’s happy with polishing the surface and not keen on an overhaul, as was also amply evident in his style of governance in the past 10 years. This presupposes a sail through placid waters. He does not believe in confronting the system or raising the heat. For this reason alone the wait for a bold overhaul of the antiquated systems in this country is but a pipe dream.


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