Modi Cabinet reshuffle: In the final stretch of his government, Prime Minister Narendra Modi would want such ministers in Cabinet who could deliver 2019 General Elections for him. In the last three years, Modi government has undertaken several measures to boost voters’ confidence in the government. But at the same time, many promises BJP made in its election manifesto of 2014 remain unfulfilled. Some of the Cabinet ministers have performed remarkably well in the last three years and their works have been acknowledged. However, there are speculations that Modi’s most performing ministers like Piyush Goyal, Nitin Gadkari and Dharmendra Pradhan may get bigger responsibilities in the Cabinet, while some of the poor performers will be shown the door and replaced by new faces.
Whatever be the shape of the Cabinet after an expected rejig on Sunday, the members would have to perform exceptionally in the coming two years to help Modi retain his PM seat. More so because issues like low GDP growth post demonetisation, unemployment, low investment, railway accidents, cow vigilantes, floods and farmers’ woes are threatening to derail BJP’s onward march in the coming months.
Here are some of the top issues the Cabinet ministers would have to work upon in the last stretch of Modi government:
Employment: In its 2014 election manifesto, BJP had outlined seven urgent issues. Out of these seven issues, Modi government has made laudable efforts to tackle corruption, black money, price rise, policy paralysis, credibility crisis, entrepreneurship and poor delivery. However, government’s efforts have so far failed to generate an adequate number of jobs for unemployed youth, who also constitute a major chunk of voters in the country. Party president Amit Shah has claimed on many occasions like schemes like Mudra have helped generate jobs. But the party is yet to come up with something solid to proof employment growth.
Though PM Modi regularly keeps on praising youth potential of India, it cannot be realised if they don’t get jobs. Modi Cabinet would now have to work in a war mode to generate job opportunities and the result should be visible to the public, not just on paper.
Economic Growth: India’s economic growth in the first two years of Modi government was healthy. But it has slumped to 5.7% in the first quarter of this financial year. Experts believe the unexpected slump has happened because of decisions like demonetisation and implementation of GST. Forecast by leading international agencies for coming years continue to remain bright, but economic minds in Modi Cabinet can’t afford to take it lightly in the next two years.
In its 2014 manifesto, the saffron party had promised “economic revival” of the country. “We will bring back credibility and trust in government, re-sowing confidence in the India story domestically as well as internationally. Through consistent, long-term policies, we will not just spur the process of economic growth, but also ensure that it is stable as well as balanced,” it had said.
However, any further slowdown in coming quarters would serve as a big blow to Modi’s 2019 prospects.
Defence: Defence modernisation was one of the promises made by BJP in 2014 manifesto. “BJP will address the issue of reforms with regards to defence equipment, support services, organizational reforms and other related matters,” it had said. As far as security policy is concerned, Modi government has taken bold steps like surgical strikes and making the end of terrorism the most important criteria for resumption of India-Pakistan talks. But the government needs to do a lot as far as reforms in the defence sector is concerned.
Power: 24×7 electricity is still a distant dream in many parts of the country. Under Piyush Goyal, the country has marched several steps forward as far as power generation and distribution is concerned. But a lot needs to be done yet. With rumours of Goyal being moved to another ministry, Modi would have to ensure that power ministry doesn’t lag behind under a non-performing minister in the next two years.
Railways: Under Suresh Prabhu, Railways has been unable to prevent accidents and improve common passengers’ comfort, though he has been successful in the structural improvement of the railways’ infrastructure up to some extent. Plans to introduce high-speed Bullet trains are also on, as promised by the 2014 manifesto. “We will launch Diamond Quadrilateral project – of High-Speed Train network (bullet train).”
However, common voters don’t get swayed by lofty promises like bullet trains. All they need is comfort and an assurance of safety. In the next two years, Modi Cabinet would need to ensure a turnaround of its poor rail safety record.
Ganga cleaning: Despite big promises, ambitious Ganga cleaning programme led by Union minister Uma Bharti doesn’t seem to have moved anywhere in three years. Ganga is the lifeline for crores of people in states like UP, Bihar, West Bengal. Not only this, PM Modi’s constituency Varanasi is on the banks of river Ganga. A failure of clean Ganga mission would be a big blot for Modi in 2019.
MSME sector: Demonetisation decision of November 2016 badly hit MSMEs across the country. This sector is crucial for economic development and jobs creation. In its 2014 manifesto, BJP had said, ” Overall goal is to enhance the competitiveness of the SME sector leading to a larger contribution to our economic growth and employment generation.” This promise must be fulfilled in two years.
NPAs: The 2014 BJP Manifesto noted, “NPAs have increased sharply over the past few years and the trend continues. BJP will take necessary steps to reduce NPAs in Banking sector. Also, BJP will set up a strong regulatory framework for the non-banking financial companies to protect the investors.” Three years have already passed but Modi government has so far looked clueless as far as solving this problem is concerned.