Modi 2.0 Cabinet: Have southern states been given a raw deal?

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Published: June 1, 2019 3:22:38 PM

He said Sitharaman and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar have no links to Tamil people and could not be regarded as representatives of Tamil Nadu.

In Telangana, where BJP had won four LS seats, analyst Telakapalli Ravi said people would have been happier if G Kishan Reddy had been given independent charge at the least, leave alone a Cabinet rank.

As the new Narendra Modi dispensation began its second innings in Delhi, a perception took shape in southern India that the region, particularly Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, has been given a raw deal in ministerial berth allocations. Karnataka has been given three Union ministerial berths in addition to Finance portfolio for Nirmala Sitharaman, who is a Rajya Sabha MP from that state, while one minister each hail from Kerala and Telangana. Tamil Nadu, which boasted of as many as nine ministers in the UPA-II government in 2009, did not get any representation in Modi 2.0 government. While the BJP drew a blank this time, its ally AIADMK managed to win one (Theni) seat and the rest (37 Lok Sabha constituencies) went to the kitty of the DMK-Congress combine.

DMK chief M K Stalin said Prime Minister Narendra Modi has “slighted” Tamil Nadu by not appointing anyone from the state in the cabinet, since he was “angered” that people did not elect even a single MP from his party. Congress’s TN president K S Alagiri said the exclusion could be only construed as boycott of not only AIADMK but Tamil Nadu as well. Alleging a raw deal, he said “due to an anti-Modi wave” witnessed during polls, Tamil Nadu has been sidelined.

He said Sitharaman and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar have no links to Tamil people and could not be regarded as representatives of Tamil Nadu. He wondered what stopped the BJP from naming at least one of its leaders from Tamil Nadu to the Council of Ministers (and elect them to the Rajya Sabha). Political commentator M Bharat Kumar said while Nirmala Sitharaman was a Rajya Sabha MP from Karnataka, S Jaishankar was Delhi based. “They have no links whatsoever to Tamil Nadu as of now. How do you expect them to protect the interests of our state?” he asked. Analyst Ravindran Duraisamy, however, said it was wrong to say TN been given a raw deal. “Both Sitharaman and Jaishankar hail from Tamil Nadu and they have their roots here.” Though Sitharaman may have been elected to the Upper House from Karnataka, she was a native of Tamil Nadu and similar was the case with Jaishankar, he added. Political observer D Jagadheeswaran said the difference of opinion within the top leadership of the AIADMK was the reason for no MP (both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha) from Tamil Nadu getting a berth. Senior BJP leader and former Rajya Sabha MP, L Ganesan, said the present Union Cabinet was not a full-fledged one, adding there were more openings, apparently indicating that Tamil Nadu stood a chance during future expansion.

“AIADMK should have been given (a berth), but we do not know what happened during the talks and what transpired.” Similar was the perception about representation of Andhra Pradesh in the Cabinet. Andhra-based political commentator P Naveen said, “Seeing the Modi Cabinet, it appeared as if the Centre did not have any connection with Andhra Pradesh.” The BJP has only one MP in AP, Suresh Prabhu, who was elected to the Upper House in 2016. However, he did not find a place in the Cabinet this time. The BJP did not win any of the 25 Lok Sabha seats in AP in the recent general election. In 2014, the Telugu Desam Party’s (which was an ally of the BJP then) two MPs –- P Ashok Gajapathi Raju and Y S Chowdary –- found place in the Modi government. During the UPA rule, the Congress had more than 30 MPs in undivided Andhra Pradesh and there were more than seven ministers from the state with leaders like S Jaipal Reddy and M M Pallam Raju having Cabinet rank. In Telangana, where BJP had won four LS seats, analyst Telakapalli Ravi said people would have been happier if G Kishan Reddy had been given independent charge at the least, leave alone a Cabinet rank.

Though Karnataka has been represented in the Cabinet, Narayana A, who teaches political philosophy at Azim Premji University, said it would be “a bit premature” to say if adequate representation has been given to the state in the Modi cabinet, because full cabinet was not yet in place. He, however, expressed surprise over no representation for SCs, STs and OBCs for now. “It is a little surprising that there is no representation for SCs, STs and OBCs, because SCs and STs have been with the BJP for some time now and the OBC is new addition to BJP’s support base in Karnataka,” he added. The induction of Sadananda Gowda (Vokkaliga) and Suresh Angadi (Lingayat) is being considered as a balancing act to accommodate the two dominant communities of Karnataka. Another minister from Karnataka, Pralhad Joshi is a Brahmin.

The previous Modi ministry had five members from Karnataka, including Sitharaman. The BJP’s Kerala unit chief, P S Sreedharan Pillai, argued that though the southern states have given fewer MPs for the party, the Prime Minister has given good consideration to the south. Another BJP leader S Suresh said it was not about the number of ministers in the cabinet (from every state), but the union government’s attitude towards the states that mattered. He said the Centre had always and would continue to give all states a fair deal irrespective of the number of ministers. Though the BJP drew a blank in Kerala, V Muraleedharan, a former state party chief, has been made Minister of State for External Affairs. He is a Rajya Sabha MP from Maharashtra. During the tenure of Congress-led UPA II, there were eight ministers from Kerala.

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