With an eye on UP elections PM Modi backtracks on 'lean govt' promise
Modi's cabinet has now swelled to 78 ministers, which is one of the biggest in years and a far cry from Modi's 2014 election promise of “minimum government and maximum governance."
“Minimum government, maximum governance,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said two year ago.
The government at that time had inducted only 24 ministers in order to maintain a “lean cabinet”, with many ministers holding multiple posts. This included Arun Jaitley who was sworn in as Finance Minister and Defence Minister, Venkaiah Naidu held portfolios such as Urban Development Minister, Minister of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation and Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Nitin Gadkari has portfolios such as Minister of Road Transport and Highways and Minister of Shipping.
This decision was taken by Modi in order to reduce the roadblocks between various ministries which used to impede decision making of the government.
Surprise, surprise! A few months later in November 2014 the government inducted 21 new ministers into the cabinet. While 4 were sworn in as cabinet ministers, three were Ministers of State (Independent Charge) and 14 Ministers of State.
The four Cabinet Ministers include Manohar Parrikar as Defence Minister, Suresh Prabhu as Railway Minister, Birendra Singh as Minister of Rural Development and Jagat Prakash Nadda as Minister of Health and Family Welfare. The Ministers of State (MoS) were put in as junior ministers under various particular portfolios to assist the cabinet ministers. An example of this was the appointment of Jayant Sinha as MoS for Ministry of Finance.
This took strength of the Union Council of Ministers to 66 in the first cabinet expansion.
Fast-forward to two years, PM Modi has inducted 19 new ministers into the cabinet. Although he has accepted the resignation of 5 ministers, Modi's cabinet has now swelled to 78 ministers – one of the biggest in years and a far cry from Modi's 2014 election promise of “minimum government and maximum governance.”
"If this was a reform-minded government, you would be reducing the numbers of people and portfolios, shedding ministries," said Manoj Joshi, a political expert at Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi told Reuters.
"What you can read from this is that it is not particularly efficient or concerned about governance," Joshi said, referring to Modi's ruling BJP.
Modi swept to power in May 2014 on a promise of jobs and growth. However, critics have questioned his government's performance and political analysts say the ruling party suffers from a shortage of experienced members.
A number of newly inducted ministers hail from India's backward castes, members of which are widely expected to play a critical role in an election in the most populous state of Uttar Pradesh next year.
This includes three ministers from UP are Anupriya Patel, Krishna Raj and Mahendra Nath Pandey. Apart from this a total of seven out of 19 ministers inducted were from the Dalit community which accounted for around 20% of the total electorate in UP.
That UP state election is likely to have a bearing on Modi's bid to retain power in a general election, due by 2019.
"His eyes are set on his re-election in 2019," said Neerja Chowdhury, an independent political analyst told Reuters. "He has given representation to the social groups that voted for him in the last general election."
(Inputs from Reuters and PTI)