The much-awaited and oft-delayed Modi 2.0 cabinet expansion finally got off the ground today. A look at the new cabinet inductees spells out the strategy of PM Narendra Modi and BJP for the future. In this expansion, the key focus of PM Modi has been on 4 states - Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Odisha.
A more precise look at the Cabinet expansion brings to glare the fact that the BJP's key focus has been on Maharashtra and Odisha. Because, the new inductees from states like MP, Bihar and Assam carry a background.
While the Scindia scion has been awarded a cabinet berth for his key role in the installation of Shivraj Singh Chouhan as CM of MP, the former CM and firebrand 'Jatiya Nayak' of Assam, Sarbanand Sonowal inducted into the cabinet after Hemanta Biswa Sarma took over the reins of Assam. In the same vein, the induction from Bihar has been necessitated by the decision of JD (U) to join the Modi Cabinet.
With the induction of new faces from MP, Bihar and Assam having a context to their inclusion, the foresight of BJP and PM Modi in giving representation from Maharashtra and Odisha carries a strategy.
While the induction of Konkan strongman and Shiv Sena bete noire Narayan Rane, given current the political flux in Maharashtra where Shiv Sena dumped BJP and joined hands with NCP and Cong to form the govt, clearly unveils the saffron party's political strategy (Maratha reservation) in the crucial western state, the induction of soft-spoken former bureaucrat and entrepreneur Ashwani Vaishnav from Odisha as Modi 2.0's new face belies any such aggressive political game-plan.
A little hindsight spells out the BJP game-plan In Odisha. Ashwani Vaishnav's election to the upper house from Odisha has been facilitated by ruling BJD and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. Despite gaining big in LS and State Assembly elections in 2019 riding on the Modi wave, the saffron party didn't have the strength to send a member to the Rajya Sabha, though it snatched the luxury of the ruling BJD to walk with the cake.
Post the change in legislative arithmetic in Odisha, the BJD couldn't grab all the RS seats on offer from the State. With both PM Modi and HM Amit Shah keen on Vaishnav, the former IAS who quit the corporate sector to set up his own company in Gujarat in 2012, CM Naveen Patnaik sealed a win-win deal by supporting Vaishnav, who incidentally had a congenial relationship with CM Patnaik.
Saffron Odisha Tactic
The inclusion of the seasoned bureaucrat from Odisha, who happens to be an RS member, underscores the BJP current game-plan in Odisha. The State will go to election again in 2024. It seems inclusion from the Odisha quota underlines no electoral strategy of BJP. Because no eligible and qualified Lok Sabha MP from Odisha has been accommodated.
However, the party hasn't lost its sight of social engineering strategy in Odisha. The induction of first-time tribal MP from Odisha as a junior minister in Union council tells a tale. Also, it seems, the saffron party has made up the loss it had scored during the first swearing-in of the Modi cabinet post the emphatic win in 2019 when no tribal leader got a berth in the council of ministers.
"The inclusion of Mayurbhanj MP Bishwesar Tudu in the Modi council of ministers hints at grooming of a first time tribal MP from Odisha. It seems the party is now looking beyond its seasoned tribal leader and former BJP State president Jual Oram. Moreover, BJP has given the first minister in union council to Mayurbhanj - an erstwhile stronghold of Congress and JMM, " observed a senior political analyst.
"The anointment of Bhubaneswar MP and former bureaucrat Aparajita Sarangi as national spokesperson earlier this year has then signalled the things to come. By giving organisational positions to battle-ready Lok Sabha MPs from Odisha, the party seems in the serious business of trying to shore up its organisational strength in the State to take on the might of ruling BJD. It didn't wish to burden them with ministerial responsibilities to weaken the focus," the analyst further commented.
Portfolios For Odisha
As per the buzz in BJP here, the speculation is when Ashwani Vaishnav could be given the ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship or Steel and Mines, Tudu is likely to be an MoS in the Union Tribal ministry.