Prime Minister Narendra Modi now has one more reason to rejig his Council of Ministers. M Venkaiah Naidu, chosen as the NDA’s nominee for the post of Vice-President on Monday night, resigned from the Cabinet, leaving two of his portfolios – Urban Development, and Information and Broadcasting – as ministries without a senior minister.Given the composition of the current electoral college for vice-presidential polls, it is certain that Naidu will move to the 6, Maulana Azad Road residence of the Vice-President, and the Prime Minister would have to decide who steps in Naidu’s shoes.While Textiles Minister Smriti Irani has been given additional charge of the Information and Broadcast Ministry, Rural Development Minister NS Tomar has been asked to look after the Urban Development Ministry till a full-time replacement is found.
But both the ministries Naidu looked after are critical. An active Prime Minister, who wants information about his government’s policies and initiatives to reach the maximum number of people, can’t work too long with a part-time Information and Broadcasting Minister, even if it is currently being held by Irani, one of Modi’s trusted ministers.The Urban Development Ministry, on the other hand, is the nodal body for PM Modi’s and ambitious Smart City project. A full-time minister is needed to get this delivered on the ground since the 2019 Lok Sabha polls are less than two years away.Similarly, Finance Minister and part-time Defence Minister Arun Jaitely is stretched due to the pressures of a heavy economic agenda, including the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), the FDI, and privatisation of loss-making public sector entities like the Air India, and chalking out a roadmap for India’s economic revival.
In March this year, Manohar Parikar moved from the Defence Ministry to take over as Goa Chief Minister. The ministry was placed in the hands of Jaitley.The Environment Ministry, since the movement of Prakash Javadekar to the Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry, awaits a full-time minister. As need for infrastructure spending and investments rises to revive the economy, environmental concerns are being raised. Absence of a full-time minister exposes the government to charges of reducing the status of the ministry to a mere ‘clearance table’.Prime Minister Modi first expanded his Cabinet in November 2014 when he inducted 21 new faces, including Parrikar as Defence Minister. In July last year, Modi undertook another reshuffle, in which he appointed Javadekar as the HRD Minister, replacing Irani, who was shifted to Textiles.Now, Modi has a not-so-easy task to perform: fill more vacancies and ensure that the ministries deliver on the promises while men of impeccable integrity drive them. No one is ready to hazard a guess as to when Modi will fill these vacancies or shuffle his Council of Ministers.