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Mainstream, VOL LII, No 47, November 15, 2014

More than a Streak of Authoritarianism

Sunday 16 November 2014, by SC


Last Sunday (November 9) PM Narendra Modi carried out the first expansion of his Cabinet after being sworn in six months ago.

By making Goa CM Manohar Parrikar a full-time Defence Minister he has sought to rectify the imbalance evident in a single person holding two major Ministries of Finance and Defence (which can never be clubbed together for obvious reasons). Parrikar had doubtless displayed administrative capability as the Goa CM; so his being made the Defence Minister has not raised any eyebrow. Rather, the choice has been widely welcomed.

Also welcome is the appointment of Suresh Prabhu, a well-known technocrat (who was in the Council of Ministers in the A.B. Vajpayee-led NDA Government as well), as the new Railway Minister and there is much anticipation that he would take practical measures for development of this much-neglected vital sector. His predecessor, Sadanand Gowda, was quite a disappointment because of his inability to assert and get decisions implemented.

Dr Harsh Vardhan’s removal from the Health Ministry to be given charge of Science and Technology has been questioned by many since he was always upright in his public dealings as a Minister and because there are certain allegations against his successor, J.P. Nadda. It is further believed that Vardhan’s shift to Science and Technology was due to the strong opposition to his anti-tobacco campaign. But subsequently it is reported that Vardhan’s new appointment may well be a temporary one—he is likely to become the Delhi CM once the BJP gets a majority in the coming elections to the State Assembly.

The Cabinet expansion further shows that the PM deliberately refused to entertain the demands of Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje.

But more than Modi’s Cabinet expansion what has attracted greater attention is his attitude towards such a trusted ally of 25 years, the Shiv Sena. The latter is ideologically closest to the BJP; yet Modi and his close accomplice Amit Shah, now heading the BJP, decided to cut the Uddhav Thackeray-led Sena to size and ignored its claims. By so doing he has once again exposed his authoritarian tendencies which have soared following the BJP’s electoral successes in Haryana and Maharashtra. As a result the Shiv Sena is now in the Opposition and its nominee the Leader of the Opposition in the Maharashtra Assembly. The BJP Government there is actually relying on the “unconditional support” lent by Sharad Pawar’s NCP, a party Modi himself had branded as the ‘Nationally Corrupt Party’ during his election campaign in the State.

Yet the developments in the Maharashtra Assembly today have revealed the predicament of the BJP, thanks to the Modi-Shah duo’s high-handedness. This stems from the PM’s behavioural pattern which manifests something more than a streak of authoritarianism.

Novermber 13 S.C.

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