The last executive job that Shah held was Home Minister in Gujarat when Modi was chief minister
The other hugely important pick made by Modi was to appoint Nirmala Sitharaman the all-important Finance Minister
Modi has found his Manmohan Singh in the new foreign minister S. Jaishankar
Rajnath Singh as the new Raksha mantri (Defence Minister), is expected to tamp down the Rafale controversy
So the Shah age has dawned in the politics of India, as Amit Shah, the most successful BJP president in the party’s history, will be the new Home Minister in the Modi 2 government.
Shah had his pick of portfolios after he powered the BJP to 300 plus seats, but he opted for the Home Ministry. Shah wants to execute the Sangh’s vision in Jammu and Kashmir and implement the controversial National Citizens Register in Assam.
Make no mistake Modi 2 is a double act of the dream team of Narendra Modi and Shah who have worked together for decades.
The last executive job that Shah held was Home Minister in Gujarat when Modi was chief minister. That stint turned out to be hugely controversial. Ideally, Shah would want to leave a Sardar Patel type imprint on the contours of India.
The other hugely important pick made by Modi was to appoint Nirmala Sitharaman the all-important Finance Minister. Sitharman takes over the Ministry from her mentor Arun Jaitley, who is believed to have recommended her for the job to Modi. This edged out firm front runner Piyush Goyal, who had held the finance charge twice when Jaitley was indisposed. Goyal had also presented the last budget of Modi 1. Goyal retains his railways portfolio.
With the economy in dire straits, Sitharman has inherited a tough deal from Jaitley. The just released numbers confirm that growth in jobs is at a 45-year low. The Indian economy has slowed down and been replaced by China as the world’s fastest growing economy.
GDP figures are no longer in double digits and a crisis of exports, manufacturing and investment need to be addressed on a war-footing. Sitharman, who had earlier held the commerce portfolio, had done a mediocre job of it. And as with her earlier portfolio of Defence, despite breaking the glass ceiling, she is perceived as a light weight politician who has never won an election.
If India has to get growth back on track, the entire team of Modi 2 will have to hit the ground running. Modi will need to use his considerable political capital to get rid of the white elephants such as Air India plaguing the public sector. The other crisis in public sector banks also needs to be addressed with a true assessment of their balance sheets.
India’s official data, which is now being looked at with considerable skepticism in the world, needs to be put back on track. After the hoopla of the swearing-in, the sober reality of getting the Indian economy back on the rails is the first priority of Modi 2.
Interestingly, Modi has found his Manmohan Singh in the new foreign minister S. Jaishankar, who retired as foreign secretary. He was always Modi’s favourite official and with his huge domain experience as a diplomat, he will synchronise the PMO’s economic remit with the Ministry of External Affairs. The fact that Modi trusts Jaishankar is a huge plus, and hopefully, economic diplomacy will be top of the agenda.
Rajnath Singh as the new Raksha mantri (Defence Minister), is expected to tamp down the Rafale controversy and also push through long delayed defence acquisitions. His low key yet firm leadership will ensure that the three services are on board with the Ministry of Defence.
This time around Modi’s PMO will also see some changes. So what of other portfolios?
Nitin Gadkari, widely perceived as a doer, retains his earlier remit of transport and small and medium industries.
Goyal keeps railways portfolio. And, Smriti Irani, the big victor of Amethi, gets a reward in the form of women and child welfare alongside her earlier portfolio of the textiles ministry.
Modi and Shah have made it clear to their team that they have to hit the ground running and provide successful governance not headlines. Ministers have been told that they will be subjected to periodic evaluations and they have to deliver.
The Modi 2 cabinet has the stamp of both Modi and Shah. And if Shah retains his position as party president it will establish that he is indispensable to Modi and even the BJP. Truly the Shah of all he surveys.