Narendra Modi to head lean Cabinet

Narendra Modi to head lean Cabinet

Modi to head lean Cabinet, stresses “minimum government, maximum governance”

By Sonny Abraham (Reporting from New Delhi)

Published: Mon 26 May 2014, 2:47 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 2:04 AM

Indian Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi pays floral tributes at Rajghat, the memorial of Mahatma Gandhi. AP

Hours before he assumes office as the new Prime Minister of India on Monday, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Narendra Modi has indicated that his Cabinet would be a leaner one than that of his predecessor Manmohan Singh and that he would be guided by the principle of “minimum government, maximum governance”.

Modi, 63, will be administered the oaths of office and secrecy by President Pranab Mukherjee at a ceremony in the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan, the Presidential Palance, at 6 pm on Monday in the presence of about 4000 guests, including the leaders of all the seven other SAARC member-countries and Mauritius.

Modi began the day by visiting Rajghat, the memorial of Mahatma Gandhi in the capital, along with several BJP leaders and offered homage to the Father of the Nation. From there, he drove to the residence of ailing veteran BJP leader and former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to seek his blessings.

Later, Modi, till recently the Chief Minister of Gujarat, returned to Gujarat Bhavan, the guest house of the state government here, and continued discussions with senior BJP leaders on the composition of his Council of Ministers.

As of this morning, the names of Ministers who would be sworn in with him were not available, but a statement put out on behalf of Mr Modi late Sunday night provided some insight into the behind-the-scenes exercises which have been going on for the past many days.

The strength of the Union Council of Ministers can go upto about 80 under the law - 10 per cent of the total number of MPs in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha—and the outgoing UPA government has 71 Ministers.

Indian artist Harwinder Singh Gill poses with his new creation, an image of Indian Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi and tea cups ahead of Modi's swearing-in ceremony on Monday, in Amritsar. Reuters

“The Prime Minister-designate, Mr Narendra Modi, has made a historic change in the formation of Ministries. For the first time, he adopted guiding principle of “Minimum Government and Maximum Governance” and also rationalization with a commitment to bring a change in the work culture and style of governance,” the statement said.

“It is a good beginning in transforming entity of assembled ministries to Organic Ministries. It will bring more coordination between different departments, will be more effective and bring a speed in process,” it said.

The statement said the focus was on convergence in the activities of various Ministries, where one Cabinet Minister will be heading a cluster of Ministries working in complementary sectors.

“Mr. Modi is eventually aiming at Smart Governance where the top layers of Government will be downsized and there would be expansion at the grass root level,” it said.

Sources said this could mean, for example, that Ministries of Road Transport, Shipping, Railways and Civil Aviation could be clubbed into a Ministry of Transportation. In other examples, the Ministry of Overseas Indians and the Department of Foreign Trade could be clubbed with the Ministry of External Affairs, while Panchayati Raj could be merged with Rural Development and Social Justice with Tribal Affairs. There could, similarly, be an omnibus Energy Ministry, too.

Then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had tried out something similar in the mid-1980s during his term, creating, for instance, a Transport Ministry under Bansi Lal looking after Railways, Civil Aviation and Surface Transport, each of which was headed by a Minister of State.

“Mr. Narendra Modi is aware of the high expectations of the people. For whole four days, he was busy with the formation of Ministry and discussing various alternatives to effective governance, convergence and coordination between various ministries.

“Earlier, there was political instability and multi-party governments, the ministry formation was almost done in a bifurcated manner,” it said.

An Indian supporter holds posters of Narendra Modi in Ahmedabad. AFP

According to it, Mr Modi has tried in a “rational manner’ to club “like-minded departments” in such a way so as “to convert entity of assembled ministry to organic entity”.

“He formed ministry using as an instrument to deal with challenges and expectation of people. Integrated and inter-connected nature of governance is being focused in this positive change. He emphasized that the ministry can deliver, can govern and can bring change in style of functioning. In the ministry formation, the process of development will be more inclusive than it has been,” the statement added.

“Overwhelmed by greetings from friends across India & the world. I am deeply grateful for your continuous support & best wishes,” Modi said on micro-blogging site Twitter yesterday evening.

“Great having leaders from SAARC nations & Mauritius join us during the ceremony. Their presence will make the occasion more memorable,” he said.

Modi led the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to a huge win in the recently-held elections to the Lok Sabha, winning 336 seats in the 543-member House. The fact that the BJP alone won a clear majority on its own—with 282 seats—means that he would not be vulnerable to pressures from the BJP’s 29 allies in the NDA in the Ministry-making exercise as well as in governance, a problem that Mr Vajpayee and outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh faced during their tenures in the top job as heads of coalition governments.

The guests at today’s swearing-in ceremony will include Presidents Mahinda Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka, Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, Abdulla Yameen of the Maldives and Navin Ramgoolam of Mauritius and Prime Ministers Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan, Tshering Tobgay of Bhutan and Sushil Koirala of Nepal. Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is on a foreign tour and the country will be represented by Parliament Speaker Shirin Chaudhary.

About 150 other countries will be represented at the ceremony by their diplomats posted in Delhi.

The guest list also includes Governors and Chief Ministers of several states, Members of Parliament, leaders of political parties, friends and relatives of Modi and his Cabinet colleagues and senior government officials.

Outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi are among those expected to be present. Modi and Singh will also attend a dinner that Mr Mukherjee will host for the eight visiting foreign leaders this evening.

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