While Rajnath Singh is a member of all six Cabinet committees, Jaitley has had a say in virtually every government decision so far
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dominance over the government and the party is complete, but who is his number two? Like L. K. Advani was to A.B. Vajpayee or Pranab Mukherjee was to Manmohan Singh? The crafty juggler of people that he is, Mr. Modi has left room for speculation, as he completes the first month.
The way the Modi government has evolved over its first month suggests that there are two number twos rather than one – Finance and Defence Minister Arun Jaitely and Home Minister Rajnath Singh. Both are prime ministerial material, and both were not exactly friends until they discovered a shared zeal in early 2013 in offering unqualified support for Mr. Modi’s bid to be prime ministerial candidate. By giving prominence to both, Mr. Modi is being thankful to both at one level. At another, he is disallowing the clear emergence of a number two.
Mr. Modi has ensured this balance by portfolio allocation and berths in Cabinet committees. While Mr. Singh is a member of all six Cabinet committees, his membership in the one on appointments makes him a key decision maker, apart from being at the helm of the Home Ministry. In the case of Mr. Jaitley, not only does he hold the key portfolios of Defence and Finance, he has had a say in virtually every decision of the government so far – from appointing Nripendra Mishra as Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister to blocking Gopal Subramanium’s appointment as a judge of the Supreme Court. Key portfolios have gone to bright sparks discovered by Mr. Jaitley such as Nirmala Sitharaman and Dharmendra Pradhan, despite being first time Members of Parliament
Mr. Modi has scrapped all the Group of Ministers (GoMs) and Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoMs) before constituting Cabinet committees – which could wield some amount of power.
Apart from the Singh- Jaitley balance in the equation, it is the rise of Law and Justice, IT and Communications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad that has been noticed in the party circles as he was made a member of three key committees –Political Affairs, Parliamentary Affairs and Economic Affairs.
The Prime Minister has also shared power with allies of the BJP who have found representation on political, parliamentary and economic affairs committees.
Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) leader Ram Vilas Paswan, among the first to jump on to the Modi bandwagon during the poll campaign, giving wider acceptance to Mr. Modi’s projection as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, finds place in Committees like Political Affairs and Parliamentary Affairs.
Other key committees are the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) and the Cabinet Committee on Accommodation. Four Cabinet committees – the ACC, the CCS, the CCEA and the Committee on Political Affairs – are headed by the Prime Minister while the Committee on Parliamentary Affairs and the one on Accommodation are headed by Mr.