Pick your team wisely, Mr Modi

The new prime minister of India has a fantastic choice before him one that his predecessor did not have in his two terms in office. Not only can he freely choose who he wants to work with, he can even choose which jobs he wants to allocate to them.

After ten years of watching a hapless PM looking glumly at his cabinet not selected by him, this is a novelty even for us, who are not connected to the government.

In picking his team and leaving out some people, Mr Modi does not need to worry about offering portfolios to people on the basis of their caste or religious affiliations, region, gender or seniority status. This is a luxury that very few prime ministers have had.

Modi has generated so much hope that if he picks a reluctant or lethargic team, or worse, a rebellious one, he runs the risk of trampling those dreams, if they are not fulfilled soon. Pic/PTI
Modi has generated so much hope that if he picks a reluctant or lethargic team, or worse, a rebellious one, he runs the risk of trampling those dreams, if they are not fulfilled soon. Pic/PTI

This election has been won on his name and his track record. Even the senior members in the party acknowledge that this was big, much bigger than the Mandir election or Vajpayee election. They are in Parliament because of the Modi wave and will get portfolios if he desires so. No caste, religion or relation card will work now.

It is Modi’s moment in the sun, to bask in the win and glory. But wait. Didn’t somebody say, “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown?” Sure Narendra Modi has the luxury of choosing 81 members in his cabinet and is spoilt for choice with 282 from the BJP in the Lok Sabha and 54 more from the NDA allies. But he has to exercise his right to choose with caution.

He has generated so much hope, promised immediate change, that if he picks a reluctant or lethargic team or worse, a rebellious team, he runs the risk of trampling those dreams, even inadvertently, if they are not fulfilled soon.

In the BJP there are about 20 leaders who command respect due to their seniority and the clout they have in their respective states. Ignoring regional leaders is not something that Modi is likely to do since he owes his position to the achievements he has to his credit as a state satrap.

NDA constituents would have to be accommodated even though they are likely to accept whatever they are offered, such is the brute power of the BJP in the NDA and in the parliament. Unlike Dr Singh and Mr Vajpayee, Mr Modi does not have his hands tied tightly to any ‘coalition dharma’. He pretty much has a free hand.

Mr Modi must reward the team that stood by him in testing times, and played a crucial role in his victory. All he needs to do is see how his rival’s campaign was managed to realise how important it is to run a committed and zealous election campaign.

This would seem like preaching from the pulpit because Modi has been a back-room boy to many stalwarts in the BJP. He also knows the bitter taste of being abandoned by them when they were in positions of power. He needs to guard against making similar mistakes.

And then there are hundreds of people in Delhi who have made a cabinet of their choice, some openly in TV debates and newspaper columns. The PM designate could ignore them as many of these ‘gyanis’ were virulently opposed to his candidature. But that would be spite.

As he himself has said, he will not play vindictive politics and there are no political untouchables. Moreover he could gain from listening, not necessarily acting upon their suggestions. They know how this city works. Imagine, on their advise, UPA-1 and UPA-2 survived despite all odds!

The UPA had a jumbo cabinet because of the allies they had to appease. A jumbo cabinet is not necessarily a bad idea if they work hard and are well networked with the PMO.

If they all function as individual corrupt power centres, then yes, governance will go for a toss. Minimum Government, Maximum Governance need not always work well, especially when you have to run a country the size of India. It’s complicated.

Mr Modi’s government will come under intense scrutiny from western governments and left-liberal media across the world. They are waiting to see if oppression of minorities begins from Day 1 or Day 15.

The commentariat in Pakistan is already rubbing its hands in glee making snide remarks citing Jinnah’s prophecy about a Hindu India. Mr Modi has got the overwhelming support of the country; now comes the tougher task, to deliver on his promises and prove the skeptics wrong.

Smita Prakash is Editor, News at Asian News International. You can follow her on twitter @smitaprakash

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