By Artika Raj:
He’s the Pied Piper of Hamelin. He’s the Dark Lord Sauron. The saffron winged Icarus to some and the Titan Atlas holding up this country to others. Call him what you will, but there is no doubt that our PM is definitely a very smart man. Clear evidence of this is in the way over the last week, he’s expanded his Cabinet, throwing the centralising and clubbing mantra out of the window, and bringing the count to a formidable 66. As the biggest player in the playground, everyone is eager to be on his team and those left out (*cough* Shiv Sena) are scowling in the corner. Everyone wants a piece of the pie, and Modi ji is being cautious with the servings.
But the twin states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are definitely the most welcome guests at his party. In his generous expansion, these two states that elected 93 of the 282 BJP MPs to the Lok Sabha, giving it a clear majority, are now reaping the rewards in full measure. UP has bagged four berths, the highest number in the PM’s new Cabinet while Bihar follows with a decent three. Of course it’s not just a ‘thank you’ gift that the PM is offering – because clearly his plan is long term. UP and Bihar go to elections in the next three years and the BJP needs to make sure that the Modi wave washes out the Samajwadi Party in UP and the Lalu-Nitish alliance that did well in the by-polls in Bihar.
The free ki cycles and laptops notwithstanding, the SP should start putting its heads together as joining the baritone-d Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh (MP from Lucknow),Â and animal rights activist Maneka Sanjay Gandhi (MP from Pilibhit) in the Cabinet is newbie Santosh Kumar Gangwar (MP from Bareilly). As Minister of State – Textiles (Independent Charge), Santosh Kumar completes the arsenal of backward classes representation in the Cabinet from UP with the ‘other Sadhvi’ Niranjan Jyoti taking over the Food Processing Industries, and the already present Sadhvi Uma Bharti busy cleaning up the Ganga.
Sadhvi Jyoti, a katha-vachak, belongs to the Nishad community of boatmen, and might prove crucial in swinging the backward class votes in BJP’s favour the next time around. Hard as it might have been to ease Behen Mayawati’s grip on those votes, with the BSP’s ignominious performance of bagging a full zero in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the opportunity is ripe for the BJP to swoop in and make the kill. Hopefully those are not the terms the BJP views the scenario in.
Second time MP from Agra, Ram Shankar Katheria has got the MoS — HRD (Independent Charge) in his bag of goodies, as well as ahem… criminal offence cases that include a healthy variety of attempted murder, inciting religious and racial hostility, and committing acts prejudicial to maintaining harmony — so say some media reports. Someone who finds recreation in taking religious tours (info courtesy the Lok Sabha website), Dr. Shankar has also dabbled in the literary world and has written Etawah Zile Ki Boliyan,Â Dalit Chetna Ki Avashyakata and (we are happy to know) Samajik Ekta Ki Avashyakata among others. And rounding up the fresh batch from UP is Dr. Mahesh Sharma, MoS Culture (Independent Charge), Tourism (Independent Charge), and Civil Aviation. Proud owner of a chain of multi-speciality hospitals in the NCR region, Dr. Sharma is good pals with the friendly folk of the RSS and the ABVP. Let the healing begin.
The exercise to capture, consolidate and conquer continues eastward as PM Modi readies his forces to battle the twin shaktis of our forever dear man Lalu Prasad Yadav and non-but-actual CM of the state — Nitish Yadav. While Lalu ji might still be unwilling to trim that ear-hair, he would probably be more open to the idea of joining a Third Front to contain the Modi Magic from spreading, as one of his own has joined the Lotus gang. Himself responsible for this jalebi of a mess, it all started with him giving the Pataliputra ticket to his daughter Misa Bharti, ousting long time supporter Ram Kirpal Yadav who wasn’t feeling too kindly at the rebuff.. And not even Misa’s overtures to her Chacha Ram would make him relent. RJD’s loss becomes BJP’s gain this season as Ram Kirpal Yadav joins the Cabinet as MoS Drinking Water and Sanitation. Known for his rhetoric and aggressive campaigning style, he is bound to rake in the votes for BJP in the next elections.
While that may be the ‘something borrowed’ in the PM’s trousseau, the ‘something old’ is the elevation of five-time BJP MP from Motihari, Radha Mohan Singh, to the rank of Cabinet minister for Agriculture. A long time Jan Sangh worker, Singh was also the Vice President of the Association of Bihar Cricket and lists social work as his favourite pastime.
But the real icing on the cake is in the BJP’s astute move to rope in Rajiv Pratap Rudy as MoS Skill Development & Entrepreneurship (Independent Charge), and Parliamentary Affairs. A trained pilot, for anyone who watched him massacre the UPA rule in the Vote of Thanks session this year, you know that the man has the gift of the gab. A man who enjoys ‘reading old newspapers, photography and spending hours at sea-shores in solitude…’, he lists among his interests ‘… wildlife, tourism, aviation and rural development… concern on over-population and depletion of natural resources…’ Vociferous about the social and economic development of Bihar, he could prove to be the Ace in Modi’s hand in winning Bihar.
Moves and counter moves, all the while balanced on a thin ledge, Narendra Modi is proving himself to be an adept tightrope walker in this political game and is clearly running a tight show. Â As he uses the strength of his majority to reward allies and put others in their place, the Cabinet reshuffle is a good insight into the man who sees his tenure as Prime Minister lasting for 10 years at the minimum. The ‘Hindu states’ of UP and Bihar are crucial to his dream. There is merit, there is cast, there is even crime in this new mix. But will it all pay is the big question. And as we the political pundits see it — only time will tell.