Lacking logic

The latest reshuffle of the Union council of ministers and the shake-up in the Congress organisation have to be seen together to get their intended import.

Both are perhaps the last such exercises before the Assembly elections in some states this year and the Lok Sabha elections next year. Therefore electoral considerations and imperatives are writ large on them. Merit and youth are catchwords which are used frequently  in the context of cabinet and party reorganisations. But they have not found a  place in the changes effected in the last two days. One of the new cabinet ministers, Sis ram Ola, is 85 years and most of the others are past 60 or 70. Ola and the other entrant from Rajasthan, Girija Vyas,  were inducted with an eye on the state Assembly elections later this year. Ola is expected to bring Jat votes and Vyas Brahmin votes to the party. Andhra Pradesh, where the Congress has been weakened considerably,  got  two more ministers, taking the state’s representation to 13.

Karnataka has been rewarded for the party’s thumping election victory in the state. The party also wants to continue the good showing  in the parliamentary elections. The award of the key railway portfolio to Mallikarjun Kharge is also recognition of his political value and loyalty after he was overlooked for the chief ministership. Performance of ministers was no criterion in the reshuffle, as politics and loyalty dominated it. It is not easy for a minister to make any perceivable impact in a few months before the elections. But it seems much thought was not given to it either. A purposeful revamp, with more younger faces and a focus on efficiency and clean image, could have given a better face to the government.

There were more changes at the organisational level than in the ministry and there is a more visible Rahul imprint on them. The shifting of Ajay Maken to an important party position and the drafting of more Youth Congress leaders as party secretaries may be signs of that. But essentially the changes at the higher levels remain relocations without clear logic. Loyalist leaders are still in charge of important states, though their specific assignments were changed, like the moving of Digvijay Singh to Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. In spite of all talk about a democratic makeover from the grassroots level, the leadership shied away from tough decisions both at the government and the organisational levels. 

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