Who's got the toughest job? Amit Shah Home Minister, Rajnath Singh Defence Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman Finance Minister?
Narendra Modi’s top three ministers are Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh and Nirmala Sitharaman. Each faces big challenges. Here's the hardest one.
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The one question on every mind since May 23, when the results of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections came, has been answered with the list of ministry allocations in the new Narendra Modi government. The top three in the new Cabinet are Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh and Nirmala Sitharaman.
Here’s what worked for them:
Amit Shah: Home Minister
Anybody who hedged a bet on Shah not being given Home must admit a lack of political understanding. The Home Ministry is raw power — something Shah has been enjoying since he and Modi formed a formidable force in Gujarat. After the 2002 riots, Shah who laid the ground for Modi being made chief minister as the state voted to elect its 11th Assembly. Modi in turn rewarded Shah with 10 ministries — Home was just one of them.
Homing In: Amit Shah gets the most powerful portfolio, after the PM himself. (Photo: PTI)
The other reason which made Shah the most obvious choice is the fact that the home ministry is considered the Number 2 slot in the government. That Shah is the Number 2 man in the BJP is an open secret. Rajnath Singh being sworn in after Modi was optics — something that the Modi-Shah duo are unbeatable at. For Shah to become Number 2 in the government is thus only a reflection of the power dynamics between him and PM Modi.
While the Home Ministry under Rajnath Singh remained largely low-profile, it is set to be the site for several fireworks as the BJP now tries to fulfil its poll promises with regard to Article 370 and 35(A). With the Delhi Police now under Shah, Arvind Kejriwal too could find more scope for his ‘dharna politics’, given that the Delhi CM had openly asked people not to vote for the BJP as this could result in Shah taking over as Home Minister.
देशवासियों, वोट देते वक़्त सोचना। अगर मोदी जी दोबारा आ गए तो अमित शाह गृह मंत्री होंगे। जिस देश का गृह मंत्री अमित शाह हो, उस देश का क्या होगा, ये सोच के वोट डालना। https://t.co/ws2ZCA7hjv— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) May 10, 2019
Rajnath Singh: Defence Minister
The BJP MP from Lucknow has a career spanning four decades in politics. What works in Singh’s favour is his mostly clean track record. Modi, who first swung to power in Delhi on the slogan of ‘Na khaunga, na khane dunga’, is extremely mindful of this fact.
Defence deals world over are known to get mired in corruption scandals, given the involvement of middlemen and the secrecy clauses attached to them. Singh, who during his stint as Home Minister in the previous government, played a key role in containing the scourge of Naxalism from spreading, is a good choice for the job.
Defence but never defensive: Rajnath Singh's clean-cut personality has worked well for him. (Source: Reuters)
Also, Singh’s amiable personality would make it easier for him to ensure defence expenditures do not hit the Finance Ministry roadblock.
Defence procurements remain a key area where the Modi government is yet to produce results — Singh is seen as a man who could deliver on this front.
Nirmala Sitharaman: Finance Minister
Everyone thought the finance portfolio would go to Piyush Goyal — but then, how can PM Modi not throw in a surprise?
While most did not see this coming, Sitharaman is surely well qualified for this job. Although much fuss is being made about her being the 'woman face' of power in this government, Sitharaman is also an extremely hardworking leader who's served as the country’s defence and commerce minister in the previous government.
Given the fact that Sitharaman worked as the defence minister, the traditional back and forth of files between the finance and defence ministries can be sorted out now, paving the way for defence allocations to be expedited and procurements enhanced. At a time when India faces territorial threats from both China and Pakistan, it is important the two ministries work in smooth tandem.
Rajnath and Sitharaman could be just the team needed for the job.
Counting on her: Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman has a tough task ahead. (Source: PTI)
But Sitharaman’s job is not going to be an easy one — there is pressure on the government to create more job opportunities. According to the World Bank, 8.1 million new jobs need to be created in India.
The export sector is lagging and needs a push because weak exports translate into currency weakness that adds to the problem of current account deficits (CAD). Given how the government is pushing welfare schemes, it will need to exercise fiscal prudence to keep CAD in check — and the economy growing.
Many public sector units, such as Air India, BSNL and MTNL, are gasping for breath. The new minister needs to tackle these without making taxpayers bail them out.
The government has been voted to power to deliver on people’s aspirations — the finance ministry is thus the most crucial one.
Sitharaman clearly has the most difficult task at hand.