Sunday, July 21, 2024

Merit and Modi 3.0


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With the full contingent of ministers being assembled for the Modi-3 show marking a third consecutive term for the National Democratic Alliance government, the difference this time, both in character and content, is significantly less but certain aspects stand out. Addition of talent is what draws special attention in ministry formations, but nothing goes to show such an attempt was made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi this time. While Modi’s word is final in the BJP, the influence of the RSS and Sangh Parivar on the party and its government cannot be wished away. Without the solid backing from the RSS or Sangh Parivar, BJP as a political party cannot carry clout even ten years after the Modi-led rule by the party and its allies. Clearly, RSS thinking gets reflected in ministry-formation, be it in the past, present or future. In fact, all top level appointments have an RSS stamp. The PMO itself is swamped by Sangh Parivar think-tanks, just as a seasoned and well-heeled Kashmiri Pandit lobby was active behind the Congress establishment in the past.
While the second line of Modi in the central government comprised strong leaders, the overall complexion of the three ministries since 2014 is such that there has been a deficit of talent. Nirmala Sitharaman, or Arun Jaitley, were not economists of repute as Manmohan Singh was. Yet, Sitharaman managed the ministry without any serious problems or complications. The external affairs ministry has a former diplomat and foreign affairs specialist in the form of S Jaishankar. The handling of the education ministry by Dharmendra Pradhan might enthuse the RSS, not the nation. An IT expert like Rajeev Chandrasekhar is now out. Those heading most ministries are of average capability and it showed in their performance. There is nothing to show that this term of the NDA would be more impressive.
While the BJP-NDA introduced a law giving one-third reservation for women in legislative bodies including the Lok Sabha and preened the party’s feathers with this claim, the present Modi government has no more than seven women out of the total 72 ministers. A senior minister like Smriti Irani is out, and so are Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, Meenakshi Lekhi etc. Worse, there is no Muslim representation. Women form half the population of the nation and Muslims over 15 per cent – the largest concentration compared to any other country. In Modi’s last term, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and previously MJ Akbar were part of the ministry. Not all Muslims are anti-BJP. Christians forming two per cent of the population have from their ranks a Minister of State in the form of George Kurien from Kerala. The North-East is under-represented. In other words, this is not an inclusive government. A representative form of governance is far from what we see today.


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