After an intense election season, the results declared on the 23rd of May depicted a clear verdict favouring Narendra Modi. It is the second consecutive general election in more than 20 years, when a single party in India has won a clear majority in the Lok Sabha. Given that national politics in India has been marked by several unstable regimes and compromising coalitions that degraded the efficiency of governance, this is a remarkable achievement.
With the fate of the country in its hands once again, the composition of the new NDA-II cabinet aroused a lot of speculation. This was bolstered due to the absence of political stalwarts like the former Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj from the stage during the oath-taking ceremony. With names like these eliminated from the list, the excitement surrounding the appointment of high-profile Ministers was heightened, until the list for the Cabinet was finally released on May 31st.
National security has always been one of PM Modi’s top priorities, particularly due to the political turmoil and security tensions prevailing between India and Pakistan. Further, tthe tensions present in the Sino-Indian relationships also compel India to maintain a strong defence– in fact, a major component of Mr. Modi’s ‘Act East’ Policy is to establish a collective security structure with the ASEAN. The Defence Ministry , has been assigned to Mr. Rajnath Singh, the former Home Minister and a time-tested political warrior from the BJP. His focus shall be on securing additional funds for military modernisation and ensuring the effective realisation of the ‘Make In India’ initiative for the domestic defence industry. Mr. Singh has constantly proven his efficiency while serving various portfolios, be it as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh,(2000), BJP’s President (2005), and as Home Minister (2014), and thus seems to be a reliable choice.
Continuing with the issue of strained relations in the neighbourhood, The Ministry of External Affairs is also a crucial part of the Kitchen Cabinet. It is responsible for implementing the government’s foreign policy, maintaining the country’s international relations and addressing the grievances of Indian citizens living abroad. Therefore, Dr. S. Jaishankar, the former Foreign Secretary of India, was selected to head this Ministry. Jaishankar was an IFS officer, and has been India’s ambassador to several countries including the USA and China. He had a central role in negotiating the Indo-US Nuclear Deal, and his impressive role in handling the Doklam issue with China during NDA-I is another line in his meritorious resume.
The parallel to the Ministry of External Affairs is the equally consequential Ministry of Home Affairs. Amit Shah, the incumbent chairperson of the NDA and former president of the BJP has been chosen to represent this branch of the government. While he is a first time member of the Lok Sabha, his qualifications can be ascertained from his hugely successful leadership of the BJP. He is also a close confidant of the PM: at one point during Modi’s Chief Ministership of Gujarat, Shah had held 12 crucial portfolios, including those of Home Affairs and Law and Justice. Shah has been entrusted with another very sensitive task: the maintenance of peaceful conditions within the country. While Shah is not as popular and close to the masses as the Prime Minister, this is an opportunity for him to garner the public’s confidence by proving the mettle of his positive aspirations for the country.
The choice of Nirmala Sitharaman as the Minister of Finance and Corporate Affairs has made history as a landmark decision, as she is the first full-time female Finance Minister of India. Having joined the BJP only in 2006, her rise within the party has been quick and momentous. She comes from an economics background, and during NDA-I she was the Minister for Commerce and Industry for a brief period, during which she was constantly in consultation with Mr. Arun Jaitley. While Sitharaman has certainly been efficient in her work, her inexperience might encourage a dependence on the PM. As India intends to tread on the path of economic development and consolidate its position as a global leader, a progressive management of the Finance Ministry is central, and we can only hope that it is done well.
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