The Congress ridiculed the cabinet expansion and reshuffle on Sunday, saying the rejig was “maximum government and no governance”. CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury said it was an event management exercise aimed at diverting attention from the “demonetisation disaster”. BSP chief Mayawati, too, called it a diversionary tactic. She said retired bureaucrats were now being relied upon more than politicians. Alluding to non-induction of NDA allies, she said the expansion reflects tensions in the BJP and NDA.
Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said the dropping of ministers handling the portfolios of labour, skill development and micro, small and medium enterprises was an admission of “gigantic failure” by the government. Targeting Nirmala Sitharaman, who has been elevated to the post of Defence Minister, he said hers was possibly the first instance of somebody being elevated for non-performance. Tewari said the average age of the nine new entrants is 60.44 years and the group seems “to be a senior citizens’ club. And this is a Prime Minister who has been waxing eloquent about the youth of this country.”
The choice of four former bureaucrats for ministerial posts sends out the message that “the PM does not trust his political colleagues. He has no faith in them. That is the message that he is sending out to his own party,” Tewari said. “The broader message is that a government which was run by bureaucrats, controlled by the PMO, is now going to have bureaucrats in ministerial positions too.”
Tewari said the elevation of Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi was mere tokenism. “You know what the BJP thinks about minorities…. But, what is interesting is the elevation of Nirmala Sitharaman. This is possibly the first instance where somebody has been elevated for non-performance.”
India’s exports and imports have been in free fall for a substantive part of the last 38 months when she was Commerce Minister, Tewari said. “There is nothing on the balance sheet of the Commerce Minister to justify her promotion…. We only hope and wish that she does not do the same thing to the Defence Ministry.”
Referring to the hike in fuel prices despite falling crude oil prices, he said petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan has not served the common man of India. “It is obvious that he has served some khaas aadmis and has been promoted,” Tewari said. “What is the capacity addition to India’s petroleum sector in the last 38 months? The answer is zilch,” he said.
The Congress spokesperson said the real story of the reshuffle was the dropping of ministers handling the portfolios of Labour, Skill Development and MSME. “So what does it say? No skilling, no employment generation… the MSME sector has been wiped out. But the gentlemen who presided over the destruction of the Indian economy, who have brought it down from a historic growth of 7.8 per cent…. presided over something as illogical as demonetisation, who have sunk the Indian economy continue to prosper and thrive,” he said.
Yechury said: “The whole country knows that the government and the country is run by the PM and the PMO. Who occupies which chair in the cabinet clearly does not matter.”
Mayawati said the reshuffle was to divert attention of the people from the government’s failure to tackle poverty and unemployment. The expansion has also promoted the narrow agenda of the RSS, she said.