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Narendra Modi’s cabinet expansion marks generational shift

LiveMint logoLiveMint 03-09-2017 Gyan Varma

New Delhi: A silent but significant generational shift marks out the new council of ministers, with four key leaders of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)—Nirmala Sitharaman, Piyush Goyal, Dharmendra Pradhan and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi—elevated as cabinet ministers.

All four were also instrumental in crafting the BJP’s election strategy for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and have been part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s original team ever since.

“The message of elevation of these four ministers is significant because most of the top ministers are already in their 60s; so they may not be as effective during the coming general elections. The party is looking to prepare young leaders to take on greater responsibility and the elevation is just another indication,” said a senior BJP leader.

Not just these four, but the next generation of leadership is also visible in the already existing cabinet which includes younger leaders like human resource development (HRD) minister Prakash Javadekar, information and broadcasting minister Smriti Irani and health minister Jagat Prakash Nadda.

With this, younger leaders with governance experience will now hold key ministerial positions, which is critical to the BJP’s 2019 election plans. Sunday’s rejig saw the induction of nine new faces, including younger leaders.

“The induction of Shiv Pratap Shukla from Uttar Pradesh and Ananth Kumar Hegde is also significant because both the leaders represent key states, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka and also key social bases which the party would want to cultivate,” the BJP leader added.

While Sitharaman and Pradhan have handled key positions in BJP organizational units, Goyal is the treasurer, a key position in the party organization.

With performance and preparation for 2019 the key in the new council of ministers, the BJP leadership has indicated that it is ready to give more responsibility to the younger generation.

“Sunday’s rejig signals the arrival of a new BJP. The party is readying for a new set of leadership. Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley are the only three old guards from the Atal Bihari Vajpayee era. Virtually all the power centres in the party are new,” said Jai Mrug, a Mumbai-based political analyst.

“The choice of younger leaders, particularly the elevation of four ministers to the Union cabinet, points to the BJP taking on ‘new’ states like Odisha. It is an attempt to spread the party’s political reach,” he added.

The elevation of Pradhan to cabinet rank is also significant because his ministry handles the Ujjwala scheme which provides subsidized cooking gas cylinders to the poor. The NDA has promised to provide 24X7 power and Goyal handles the important power sector. Both Pradhan and Goyal handle ministries which would be key to the BJP when it goes to the people before the 2019 general elections.

The elevation of Naqvi is also significant because he is in charge of the parliamentary affairs ministry and is part of the government’s Rajya Sabha plan where the ruling NDA is in a minority. Naqvi is also the only Muslim leader in the cabinet and handles the minority affairs ministry for the government.

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