So much more than musical chairs

Studying the changing profile of power in Modi’s government will reward those who wish to understand and do business with India

A week ago Prime Minister Narendra Modi initiated a major reshuffle of his cabinet and ministers. Halfway through the NDA’s term of government is a good time to take stock in a significant way, and to position the government for the coming election in 2019 whose approach is still just below the horizon.

What seems clear is that with this reshuffle Modi is further putting his stamp on the character of the administration, and that he has one eye on the future electoral profile of the BJP: good performance is rewarded and poor performance, including ministers getting too big for their boots, is punished. The demotion everybody is talking about is Smriti Irani being moved from Employment to Textiles due to her proclivity for never knowingly avoiding a fight and admiring herself way too much. Some claim it is not a demotion but a sideways deployment that positions her to fight in the upcoming Uttar Pradesh elections. (Note that the Gandhi family ‘pocket boroughs’, Amethi and Rae Bareli – which hold the honours of the most severe child malnutrition in India, and some of the worst highways – are in Uttar Pradesh.) Others say that is nonsense and that caste issues by far outweigh any influence that Irani could bring to bear in that state. We shall see.

At the Nehru Centre in London a couple of weeks ago (or as a certain FT journalist might put it, ‘At the Nehru Centre in London’s Mayfair’) I asked Mark Tully whose job he thought Subramanian Swamy was angling for – Raghuram Rajan’s or Arun Jaitley’s. Did Swami want the central banker’s position or the Finance minister’s office? Mark said he didn’t know, and as it turns out Swami got neither. Jaitley is – unfortunately – still there, although he was at last deprived of the Information and Broadcasting (I & B) brief. After much rumour, which first spoke of Arundhati Bhattacharya replacing Rajan, opinion is now settling on NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman (and Columbia University professor) Arvind Panagariya to become India’s new central banker. Please let it be him! Incidentally, if Prof Panagariya accepts the position of Director of the Reserve Bank of India, technically it will constitute a demotion, because at the moment Panagariya holds the rank of cabinet minister. If he accepts the central banker job he will count only as a cabinet secretary. I hope that doesn’t put him off.

But no reward in this reshuffle for Swami, which might be because although he is useful for keeping the Gandhi dynasty off-balance, you don’t want him too close: he can cause trouble wherever he is. ‘Arm’s length’ seems to be the ticket for Modi, ‘with us but not of us’; or as US President Lyndon Johnson said of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, ‘It’s probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.’ So no seat at the table just yet.

In other good news, writer and publisher M J Akbar, who long ago was an acolyte of Rajiv Gandhi but joined the BJP in the lead-up to the 2014 general election, has been made  Minister of State for External Affairs in the reshuffle – an excellent and well-deserved appointment for a true expert on Islamic affairs and a great common-sense guy who knows his history.

I am setting down here the full composition of the senior positions in the Modi reshuffle for reference, and will try to update it as any changes occur. I aim to write at more length on the subject shortly, but will say now that in light of the UK Brexit vote, the country’s face will turn quickly towards Asia, and especially India. It is important that British institutions and businesses urgently become educated about all things Indian as we begin to negotiate new terms of trade and other deals. Becoming effortlessly familiar with who is who in the corridors of power in Delhi is now more than ever vital to the future prosperity of both Britain and India.

Full reshuffle rundown:

NEW COUNCIL OF MINISTERS

Prime Minister Narendra Modi

(Modiji himself takes responsibility for: Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions; Department of Atomic Energy; Department of Space)

 

Cabinet Ministers:

 

Home Affairs

Rajnath Singh

 

External Affairs

Sushma Swaraj

 

Finance & Corporate Affairs

Arun Jaitley

 

Urban Development

Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation

Information & Broadcasting

M Venkaiah Naidu

 

Road Transport and Highways & Shipping

Nitin Jairam Gadkari

 

Defence

Manohar Parrikar

 

Railways

Suresh Prabhu

 

Statistics & Programme Implementation

D V Sadananda Gowda

 

Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation

Uma Bharati

 

Minority Affairs

Najma A Heptulla

 

Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution

Ramvilas Paswan

 

Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises

Kalraj Mishra

 

Women & Child Development

Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

 

Chemicals & Fertilizers

Parliamentary Affairs

Ananth Kumar

 

Law & Justice

Electronics & Information Technology

Ravi Shankar Prasad

 

Health & Family Welfare

Jagat Prakash Nadda

 

Civil Aviation

Ashok Gajapathi Raju Pusapati

 

Heavy Industries & Public Enterprises

Anant Geete

 

Food Processing Industries

Harsimrat Kaur Badal

 

Rural Development

Drinking Water & Sanitation

Panchayati Raj

Narendra Singh Tomar

 

Steel

Chaudhary Birender Singh

 

Tribal Affairs

Jual Oram

 

Agriculture & Farmers Welfare

Radha Mohan Singh

 

Social Justice and Empowerment

Thaawar Chand Gehlot

 

Textiles

Smriti Zubin Irani

 

Science & Technology

Earth Sciences

Harsh Vardhan

 

Human Resource Development

Prakash Javadekar

 

MINISTERS OF STATE

 

Planning (Independent Charge)

Urban Development

Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation

Rao Inderjit Singh

 

Labour & Employment (Independent Charge)

Bandaru Dattatreya

 

Skill Development & Entrepreneurship (Independent Charge)

Rajiv Pratap Rudy

 

Youth Affairs and Sports (Independent Charge)

Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation

Vijay Goel

 

AAYUSH (Independent Charge)

Shripad Yesso Naik

 

Petroleum and Natural Gas (Independent Charge)

Dharmendra Pradhan

 

Power (Independent Charge)

Coal (Independent Charge)

New and Renewable Energy (Independent Charge)

Mines (Independent Charge)

Piyush Goyal

 

Development of North Eastern Region (Independent Charge)

Prime Minister’s Office

Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions

Department of Atomic Energy

Department of Space

Jitendra Singh

 

Commerce and Industry (Independent Charge)

Nirmala Sitharaman

 

Culture (Independent Charge)

Tourism (Independent Charge)

Mahesh Sharma

 

Communications (Independent Charge)

Railways

Manoj Sinha

 

Environment, Forest and Climate Change (Independent Charge)

Anil Madhav Dave

 

External Affairs

VK Singh

 

Finance

Santosh Kumar Gangwar

 

Health & Family Welfare

Faggan Singh Kulaste

 

Minority Affairs

Parliamentary Affairs

Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi

 

Agriculture & Farmers Welfare

Parliamentary Affairs

SS Ahluwalia

 

Social Justice & Empowerment

Ramdas Athawale

 

Rural Development

Ram Kripal Yadav

 

Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises

Haribhai Parthibhai Chaudhary

 

Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises

Giriraj Singh

 

Home Affairs

Hansraj Gangaram Ahir

 

Heavy Industries & Public Enterprises

GM Siddeshwara

 

Drinking Water & Sanitation

Ramesh Chandappa Jigajinagi

 

Railways

Rajen Gohain

 

Agriculture & Farmers Welfare

Panchayati Raj

Parshottam Rupala

 

External Affairs

MJ Akbar

 

Human Resources Development

Upendra Kushwaha

 

Road Transport & Highways

Shipping

Radhakrishnan P

 

Home Affairs

Kiren Rijiju

 

Social Justice & Empowerment

Krishan Pal

 

Tribal Affairs

Jasvantsinh Sumanbhai Bhabhor

 

Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation

Dr Sanjeev Kumar Balyan

 

Steel

Vishnu Deo Sai

 

Agriculture and Farmers Welfare

Sudarshan Bhagat

 

Science & Technology

Earth Science

YS Chowdary

 

Civil Aviation

Jayant Sinha

 

Information & Broadcasting

Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore

 

Urban Development

Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation

Babul Supriyo

 

Food Processing Industries

Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti

 

Social Justice & Empowerment

Vijay Sampla

 

Finance

Corporate Affairs

Arjun Ram Meghwal

 

Human Resource Development

Dr Mahendra Nath Pandey

 

Textiles

Ajay Tamta

 

Women & Child Development

Krishna Raj

 

Road Transport & Highways, Shipping, Chemicals & Fertilisers

Mansukh L Mandaviya

 

Health & Family Welfare

Anupriya Patel

 

Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution

CR Chaudhary

 

Law & Justice

Electronics & Information Technology

PP Chaudhary

 

Defence

Dr Subhash Ramrao Bhamre

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