Earlier this week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi restructured his team of ministers for the third time since 2014 and sprung many unexpected surprises. While a lot is being said and written about the choices that Modi has made, one needs to only read the different narratives going around to learn some important lessons from the entire exercise. Here are the major lessons for organizations, individuals, and leaders alike:
Leaders come and go; leadership positions stay
The writing on the wall couldn’t be clearer: as much as the government and BJP is pointedly about Modi today, he is subtly trying to promote leaders from the next generation and honing them for bigger future roles. Just like Advani and Vajpayee made way for Modi and his peers, Modi is doing the exact same thing and ensuring that their ideology, work, and legacy outlasts his tenure. Presently, he might be the face and leader of the country, but he realizes that he will not always remain so. Delegation – a deceptively simple trait – that many leaders struggle with, is demonstrably being used efficiently at all levels. The fact that everything went smoothly despite Modi being away for an official trip, shows that he had left meticulous instructions on how to go about the entire exercise.
Gender equality gets a shot in the arm
The show-stealer was unarguably the elevation of Nirmala Sitharaman to the coveted Defence portfolio. This makes her the first woman to hold full-time charge of one of the most important ministries and also the second woman minister to be a part of Cabinet Committee on Security in the present regime. There are now a total of six women ministers in a cabinet of 27, holding important portfolios. The many firsts are obviously encouraging and have evoked more praise than critique. While her appointment is clearly an important milestone for gender quality and women empowerment in the country, the government needs to ensure that the symbolism surrounding the issue must translate to tangible progress.
Performance trumps politics
A senior official has been quoted saying, “A definite thought with diamond-like precision has gone into arriving at the names...”
The same report claims that additional Additional principal secretary to PM Modi, PK Mishra, is said to have monitored the exercise to identify the new entrants to the Council of Ministers, based on “deep research about the background and accomplishments of the person.” The politics of appeasement – of individuals or the public – seems to have been given a lower priority this time around, which is a healthy sign. The fact that several critical portfolio ministers were either shifted or completely dropped means performance is taking precedence and the newly appointed ministers will have to live up to what is expected of them.
Think Long-term (read 2019 and 2024)
In probably the clearest indications of policy planning going on for 2019 and subsequent central elections, Modi has chosen new ministers with utmost attention. He has mastered the balancing act, and in turn ensured that the impact of this decision will aid his victories in the future. An editorial in the Indian Express reads, “In the remaining time before the 2019 general elections, this reshuffle, while nodding to caste and regional considerations, has also opened up the ministry to “outsiders” to mainstream politics — of the nine additions to the ministry, four are senior civil servants who joined the BJP. K.J. Alphons, R.K. Singh, Satya Pal Singh and Hardeep Singh Puri are interesting choices for ministers and they will now have to prove that they were wise choices as well.”
The changes show that no matter if you are protesting or preaching the present government’s policy and style of working, you cannot be passive towards it. This reshuffle proves that careful planning and research is going into taking calculated decisions for the future; and depending on which side of the political spectrum you think you identify with, you can rejoice or lament what’s in store.