When Narendra Modi's second cabinet has taken office, there are more novelties than legacy, the most notable of them being Amit Shah taking over the home portfolio. Nirmala Sitharaman has taken charge as finance minister, Dr Subramaniam Jaishankar as minister of foreign affairs and Ramesh Pokhriyal as minister of human resource development.
Rather than a continuation of the previous minister, the second cabinet of Modi stands out more as a group of hands beginning on a clean slate. Several prominent ministers of the previous cabinet have been appointed in new portfolios. Given Modi's boosted privilege to appoint ministers and decide their portfolios at his will, this can be treated as a well-thought out revamping. A message can also be read into such decisions that the performance of quite a few of the leading ministers of the first term was not up to the mark. As such, onr may presume that the driver behind the selection of the new ministry is to achieve better performance. At the same time there is also the observation that no minister should be allowed to 'grow' beyond certain limit. The appointment of V Muraleedharan from Kerala has to be considered as a representation for the state. Together with the important role of deputy minister of foreign affairs, he has also been given charge of parliametary affairs. Let us hope that under the leadership of S Jaishankar and V Muraleedharan, creative moves will be made in foreign affairs.
The profile of the second Modi cabinet also indicates that there will be a greater reliance on youth than veterans for fulfilling the people's expectations from the government. It is a fact that the first Modi ministry was not able to fulfil the promises given to the people. ' Achhe din' came about only for the corporates. A fourth of the population is still living in slums. The blunder of note-ban broke the back of the economy. With the crash of the trade and industrial sector, unemployment also soared. On top of all this, the reckless implementation of Good & Services Tax (GST) left a huge negative impact. Economic disparity is at its peak. The claims floated about Indian economy and its growth turned out to be more hype than reality. There is crisis in banking-finance sector as well. Although two lack crore rupees was spent to bolster public sector banks, that did not yield the desired result. The promise of creating two crore jobs every year came a cropper. Even the existing jobs were lost; demonetisaton and GST put together caused a loss of 1.1 crore jobs in 2018 alone, according the new report. When an army of 1.2 crore youth enter the job market every year, this is a grave issue. The country is eagerly watching how the new government is going to tackle this issue. The long-standing crisis of the agricutural scene has not been resolved either; on the contrary, more recently it has been showing signs of worsening.
The social scene and civil rights are facing stiff challenges. The ruling party has played a no small role in spreading divisions and mutual mistrust. The country is in such a state that it has yet to learn that mobocracy is not democracy. Those who take law into their hands and criminals seem to have a conviction that they have the tacit approval for a free-for-all. There was no serious attempt to correct that during the first Modi government. Minorities and Dalits are hunted. A very culture has been nurtured in which criminals and terrorists are backed in a partisan manner. According to a report of Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), 233 members of the new parliament are accused in criminal cases. What would be the message given by a parliament with a near-majority strength of likely criminals? When there is a discernible tendency of criminals dominating politics (the new parliament has 43 per cent higher presence of criminal case accused than before), will there be any thought by the central government to face this? Will the ruling party be able to teach law to its own rank and file who set out to enforce mob justice?
The burden of promises is least likely to disturb Modi government. And this time, more than promises, the stress in the campaign was on emotional issues. If it is going to be like the promises of 2014, it would be more sensible not to have promises at all. Modi may be the first prime minister to have a second term without talking anything about the achievement of his own rule. The absence of terrorist attacks on civilian locations is counted as an achievement of the first Modi government. And had there been no Rafale deal, it could also have been said that there was no major case of corruption. The accomplishments in highway construction under Gadkari was not insignificant. Despite all this, there is the fact that the direction Modi government led India was not forward. People expect that things will improve in the second term. Let the goal to which the new cabinet leads the country be, as the prime minister himself said, to 'inclusive' welfare.