New Delhi: By including Union home minister Amit Shah in all the eight cabinet sub-committees, prime minister Narendra Modi has clearly indicated that he would prefer his longtime colleague from Gujarat over Rajnath Singh in matters of governance.
This reflected in the way Singh, who is technically the number two in Modi’s cabinet, was first excluded from six of the eight committees, while Shah was made a member in all of them.
Modi reconstituted six sub-committees and formed two new ones to steer job creation and economic growth. Singh, the defence minister, was only a part of the committees on security and economic affairs in the initial list.
However, as the controversy over his exclusion blew, he was inducted into four other committees on Friday. He is now also a member of committees on political affairs, parliamentary affairs, investment & growth and employment & skill development as well.
Modi is in six of them. Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman is in seven committees and railways and commerce minister Piyush Goyal in five.
More crucially, Singh has been excluded from the committee on appointments, which will oversee appointments to significant bureaucratic and constitutional posts.
In contrast, Shah will head significant committees on parliamentary affairs and accommodation, and is one of the two members of the panel on appointments.
The Hindu’s Nistula Hebbar says that while the composition of cabinet committees is not generally talked about, the flip-flop over Singh’s initial exclusion could be a “political point”.
“While government sources insist that as home minister, Mr. Shah is entitled to being a member of all of these committees and even heading two previous governments have demonstrated that this redrawing can be a matter of trust, or expectations of delivery. Thus, while former President Pranab Mukherjee was never the Home Minister, he was always the go-to man for former Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh,” Hebbar writes.
While Shah will be a constant presence in all the sub-committees, it appears that the prime minister’s office, which had concentrated most decision-making powers, may now rely on Amit Shah too. Given Shah has been trusted with so many responsibilities – unusual for a first-time minister – Modi is probably cashing in on his reputation as a clever political manager.
Meanwhile, NDTV reported that Singh’s office categorically denied that the Union minister protested against being left out of important committees. After he was excluded from most sub-committees, a large section of media quoted anonymous sources that he approached the RSS and protested against the prime minister’s decision. He is also said to have threatened to quit.