In 2019, PM Modi’s coming back reflects as a positive momentum of continuity – which will be the likely theme of his new cabinet of ministers.
With a clear majority, PM Modi will kick off his second term and take oath with his new cabinet on the 30th of May. In his address to party workers and loyalists after the resounding win on 23rd, the prime minister mentioned that not many changes are likely in his Union Council of Ministers.
“Two of Modi’s (2014-2019) ministers won’t find place in the new Government.
Smriti Irani will be defense minister. Rajnath Singh will stay home minster. And Amit Shah will come to government only after defeating congress and TMC governments. In June
Madhya Pradesh will be defeated and in July Karnataka and in August West Bengal. Rajasthan may not go beyond 2020″ –Deepak Kaistha
A few changes may happen in significant portfolios like Finance, Defence and Civil Aviation. We take a look at the probability of current ministers holding their offices and probable new ones as alternatives.
Incumbent Home Minister Rajnath Singh is expected to continue with the heaviest cabinet portfolio on the basis of his performance and stature in the party. Singh is a popular figure and won his prestigious Lucknow seat comfortably.
In a recent ‘Mood of the Nation’ poll by India Today-Karvy Insights, 50 percent of the respondents ranked Rajnath Singh as the best performing minister in the Modi cabinet.
In an unlikely case of change, Amit Shah’s candidature ranks foremost for the core cabinet portfolio. Shah is the President of BJP and may take over the Home Ministry if he decides to enter the government. Rajnath Singh took the same trajectory to Home Ministry in 2014, which itself followed LK Advani from party president to home ministry in 2004.
A longshot would be BJP’s firebrand leader Sushma Swaraj. Her credentials sing before her in taking up heavyweight portfolios. The current External Affairs Minister would be a good fit due to her remarkable administrative qualities.
Change is imminent in the cabinet portfolio as incumbent Finance Minister Arun Jaitley struggles with ill-health. Jaitley’s crucial portfolio was at the centre of a heater debate with the Reserve Bank of India on a number of occasions. In BJP Government, the ministry brought forth major disruptive initiatives like demonetisation and GST.
With Modi 2.0 expected to continue the focus on economic measures and crackdown on black money, Finance Ministry will play a key role.
Railways Minister Piyush Goyal took care of Finance Ministry on a number of occasions when Arun Jaitley found himself unavailable. This makes Goyal the likely choice as successor.
Another alternative is Nirmala Sitharaman, who was the Minister of Defence after taking over from late Manohar Parrikar when he went back to Goa to take up the Chief Ministerial office. Sitharaman has held the Minister of State for Finance designation in the past which qualifies her to take the Union office.
Sushma Swaraj became the second woman after former PM Indira Gandhi to hold the office. Her work as the external affairs minister was commendable with highlights being resonating with UN against Pakistan, working dedicatedly to improve relations with China, and helping migrant Indians across the globe in trying times and even trivial individual grievances.
Based on the flying colours of her report card, Swaraj is expected to continue as the External Affairs minister, which will certainly help India’s relations with states which have improved in the last five years under her.
The only likely scenario that Swaraj leaves the office is if she upgrades to the Home Ministry. The top candidate to succeed Sushma Swaraj as foreign minister would be Nitin Gadkari. Gadkari help the ministry of Roadways and Transport and his work has been highlighted by BJP in its re-election narrative.
Gadkari is know for brining innovative techniques to his working which might help improved foreign diplomacy. Another candidate is BJP’s giant killer Smriti Irani. Irani has the persona and soft skills matching even PM-designate Narendra Modi. This makes her an ideal candidate to lock horns with the world’s strongest diplomats.
The Defence Ministry has come under scathing criticism in Modi’s first term. But apart from the blot incurred due to the Rafale controversy, Modi’s defence ministers first the late Manohar Parrikar and then Nirmala Sitharaman have performed well.
The ministry was in the centre of focus when national security issue arrived on two separate occasions. India gave strong responses to both acts of terror, first with the surgical strike after Uri attack and then the Balakot airstrike after Pulwama bombing.
Nirmala Sitharam is might be set for replacement. But in the unlikely scenario of change, the candidature of senior leader Nitin Gadkari can come up. Gadkari will be well-suited to the intelligent procurement and organization India leads to keep up with the global superpowers.
Another alternative could be Smriti Irani. Irani handled the HRD ministry and the Textiles under Modi’s first term. But with her firebrand persona and giant drubbing of Rahul Gandhi at Amethi.
Irani could be in line for significant enhancement in responsibilities and isn’t afraid to be in the line of fire – a much needed trait for a defence minister.
Piyush Goyal has done amicably well as the Minister for Railways in PM Modi’s first term. India launched its first bullet train ‘Gatimaan Express’. Goyal also proved an able manager with a number of initiatives for on-schedule operations and enhanced facilities in Indian Railways.
But with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley unlikely to continue holding the office for a second term, Piyush Goyal has emerged as the favourite to take over as Finance Minister. Goyal held the ministry on temporary basis whenever Jaitley’s health left his unavailable.
If Goyal is handed the bigger role in PM Modi’s Cabinet, his alternative to take over the Ministry of Railways could be Suresh Prabhu. Prabhu handled the Aviation Ministry in Modi’s first term and is well-equipped to take on the more crucial role of handling India’s biggest public sector undertaking.
Another alternative could be current Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad who comfortably won his seat in 2019 and is an able administrator.
Current Minister of Roadways and Transport Nitin Gadkari had an arguably fantastic tenure in office. India saw roads made at an unprecedented pace under him, with many flagship projects coming through in record time.
It is unlikely that Nitin Gadkari would be replaced as the Minister for Transport, given his innovative style of working and a firm grip on the Indian road network system and the development it needs. But with empty positions due in bigger ministries like Finance and External Affairs, Gadkari can move up the order and take a bigger role in Modi Cabinet 2.0.
If Gadkari leaves the office, current HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar could be asked to take up the role, given his experience as a law maker. Another alternative is BJP’s national spokesperson Ram Madhav.
Madhav has not just held his own but defended the part against all kinds of allegations domestically as well as overseas. With the resounding victory in elections, Madhav is set for a heavy cabinet portfolio.
Ravi Shankar Prasad held the portfolio unchallenged in Modi’s first term. He also simultaneously held the portfolio of electronics and IT in the first cabinet. Under Prasad’s administration, India saw a number of initiatives in e-governance, digitalisation and network connectivity under the Digital India Initiative.
Prasad is set to continue the momentum and keep up the good work in the area but the BJP could be tempted to give Prasad a higher minister as part of the expected reshuffle.
In such a scenario, Law Ministry could go to national spokesperson Ram Madhav, rewarding him with the portfolio. Another alternative is the firebrand leader from Northeast Kiren Rijiju who help the portfolio for Minister of State. Rijiju could be rewarded with an upgrade to the Union ministerial office.
The aviation sector in India is perpetually doomed with major players running into the ground. The loss-making sector runs on razor thin margins in the country and reviving it has been underwhelming in Modi’s first term.
With Suresh Prabhu unable to revive the sector as airline operators still struggle to make their business viable, BJP could look to someone else’s intelligence and ability to fuel industry.
Again, Nitin Gadkari would be the ideal candidate to take over and try and usher in a new era in Indian aviation sector. He knack for innovation based on observations of examples in foreign countries might come in handy to understand why the sector has traditionally struggled in the country.
Another alternative is Jayant Sinha who held the portfolio as Minister of State in PM Modi’s first term. Sinha did a good job and could be rewarded with an upgrade if there are no other choices.
Prakash Javadekar took to the office after a reshuffle by PM Modi which saw Smriti Irani move to the textile ministry. In Modi’s first term the HRD Ministry has come under fire for being unable to fulfil thousands of teaching slots in India’s government universities.
With her stature not just refortified but grown sizably, Smriti Irani could be back to the portfolio in 2019. Irani’s first stint as HRD Minister was a controversial one. JNU incident and the death of Rohith Vemula put Irani under fire until she was reshuffled to the Textiles ministry and Javadekar took his place.
An outsider for the HRD Ministry portfolio is BJP’s master strategist in the North East, Himanta Biswa Sarma. Sarma has had a remarkable run in BJP, where has enabled the party to capture unprecedented seats in the North East. His performance could be rewarded with a cabinet portfolio.