PM Narendra Modi must look for a new finance minister

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Updated: March 15, 2017 2:18:16 PM

Railways minister Suresh Prabhu’s penchant for reforms, his clean image and acceptability across the board makes him a good choice for taking over the affairs of finance ministry, from current finance minister Arun Jaitley who is again holding the dual responsibility of both finance and defence, with Manohar Parrikar’s...

PM Narendra Modi (Reuters)

  Railways minister Suresh Prabhu’s penchant for reforms, his clean image and acceptability across the board makes him a good choice for taking over the affairs of finance ministry, from current finance minister Arun Jaitley who is again holding the dual responsibility of both finance and defence, with Manohar Parrikar’s return to Goa as chief minister.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi did well by assigning the defence portfolio again to finance minister Arun Jaitley with Manohar Parrikar’s return to Goa as chief minister—Jaitley had handled these two responsibilities in the initial months of the current NDA government successfully.

But, the very fact that he had to relinquish the defence minister’s job to focus on finance ministry because both the ministries need full-time attention, in itself, points to the need of quickly getting out of this set-up.

While Jaitley has done well as finance minister, it is now time for PM Modi to look for an alternative—he is undoubtedly the most-trusted minister of the prime minister and, along with the defence minister’s responsibilities, his services are also required in managing the affairs in Parliament, which is set to witness hectic legislative activity after the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) landslide victory in the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections.

So, it will be a good idea to bring in a new minister in the finance ministry who can whole-heartedly focus on its affairs—the proposed implementation of goods and services tax (GST) from July, reforms in direct taxes and handling of the worsening NPA situation, demands full attention from the minister-in-charge.

Against this backdrop, Railways minister Suresh Prabhu could be a good choice for PM Modi due to his penchant for reforms, acceptability across the board, and above all, a clean image.

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He has dealt with the critical power reforms in the earlier NDA government and has been pushing for wide-ranging reforms in the Railways in the current government, which include tariff and subsidy rationalisation.

Above all, he has the trust of PM Modi to take forward the reform measures initiated by Jaitley—the drive against black money will remain in the forefront of the government agenda for quite some time now and Prabhu may be the right choice to deal with it.

This will allow Jaitley to focus on further FDI liberalisation and implementation of Make-in-India in defence effectively.

A Cabinet rejig is due once the Budget session gets over on April 12, which will become even bigger if home minister Rajnath Singh is handed over the charge of UP chief minister—PM Modi has time to weigh his options, but the problem is there are not too many for handing over crucial cabinet portfolios as the old guards of the BJP are ruled out.

Going ahead, he will have to develop a strong second line of capable ministers, and Prabhu’s elevation as finance minister may be a good beginning.

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