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This Is “PERSONAL” Kind Of #Cabinet-Reshuffle

This reshuffle is not just a signal about economic transformation that this newly added team can be expected to deliver in the run up to various elections from now until early 2024.

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This is not the “personal” nature that you think. This is of “Political, Economic, Regional, Social, Organisational, National, Accountability, Linguistics” transformation. It is that type of cabinet reshuffle that sends a message that transformation is a serious focus. Hence this cabinet reshuffle is an important signal.

This is one of the many ways that a corporate professional understands a Union Cabinet reshuffle. This is not withstanding the thunderous TRPs (is that a bad word now ?) or the booming voices in breaking news or debates or the various opinion pieces that would bring credible and wasted-newsprint-ink with political colour and flavour (or even for, favour).

It would be interesting to ask the “GK” questions to various citizens - be it students or entrepreneurs, be it in urban India or rural Bharat: 1. How many ministers does the Union Cabinet have ? 2. Name at least 12 of them 3. Mention their portfolio along with their name. That would be true test, if the cabinet reshuffle message has gone down to the citizenry or if it’s only the English speaking chatter and excitement about the reshuffle.

Many will claim that few ex-ministers were asked to go for incompetency or bad handling of crisis the past many months. But even if those whispers are not directly addressed, it could help with ‘accountability’ perception.

In a frenzy that would be whipped up by voices all around, many will forget that a strong political leader’s strength is to strategise well, balance talent and optics between the government bench strength as well as party’s organisational talent strength. The party would need seasoned and politically savvy leaders who can be the ‘faces and voices’ in the run-up to elections. Some of the seniors who have moved out of the government fit those profile-requirement very well ! So it would serve the need for Optics & Organisation.

This reshuffle is not just a signal about economic transformation that this newly added team can be expected to deliver in the run up to various elections from now until early 2024. It is also expected to showcase some quick economic positivity, despite challenging revenue issues of the government. Hence this team has to play the game with quick wins as well as preparing the framework for rebuilding of the larger Indian economy by the time next national elections come up.

This is also signaling about the party’s aspiration of winning the next set of state and national elections; and by strengthening the cabinet composition and more importantly stabilising the balance of polity and policy equations, it can hopefully stabilise the expected governance outcomes.

It’s also a signal that political alliances and partnerships matter. Almost like the gig economy and “uberisation” as concepts that Corporate folks use. Some skills you build it in-house and some you outsource. And some you also in-source when needed for the duration of the project. And that’s where talent from partners come in.

It’s signal about regional politics and run up to appealing to the local stakeholders there. It’s a signal that those political parties matter, that the individuals come much later.

It’s also signal about linguistics. Imagine social media chatter going gaga about a new minister who is from their so-far unrepresented language in the cabinet. It’s more a sense of pride and probably nothing more as outcome. But those optics and feeling of “goodness” could translate into favourable feeling in the next election !

It’s also signalling about inclusiveness of caste, community, etc. In the social landscape and it’s myriad differences and nuances, lies the power influence. Just like a corporate entity will thrive to balance its diversity and inclusion policies, a good government, for its own sake, will have to work on some of these optics. An electoral democracy has to win majority by winning over many minorities ! Sadly even the most talented individuals in the team will be seen from that lens of diversity or inclusion, and not just for their merit.

This reshuffle is also about signaling that the bench strength is with wider range of constituents, and with better education and younger demographics. In politics, and especially for what we have seen in the past few years, age and education not withstanding, energy and acumen respectively matter.

The new cabinet also has technocrats and politicians as a mix. But broadly most ministries can be seen as either being a policy ministry (say Finance) or a projects ministry (say Railways or Roadways). The right leader in each of these ministries can make a world of a (positive) difference.

Hopefully all of the above will converge into competency, intent, translating our National goal of USD 5 trillion GDP with inclusiveness. And for being a government that stands for all its citizens, with just and fair outcomes for all. A cabinet, like a CXO team, has to work in tandem with common values and goals; though their managerial styles might be different. As they say, “what is measured, determines behaviour”.

Srinath Sridharan, Corporate Advisor & Independent markets commentator

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Srinath Sridharan

Independent markets commentator. Media columnist. Board member. Corporate & Startup Advisor / Mentor. CEO coach. Strategic counsel for 25 years, with leading corporates across diverse sectors including automobile, e-commerce, advertising, consumer and financial services. Works with leaders in enabling transformation of organisations which have complexities of rapid-scale-up, talent-culture conflict, generational-change of promoters / key leadership, M&A cultural issues, issues of business scale & size. Understands & ideates on intersection of BFSI, digital, ‘contextual-finance’, consumer, mobility, GEMZ (Gig Economy, Millennials, gen Z), ESG. Well-versed with contours of governance, board-level strategic expectations, regulations & nuances across BFSI & associated stakeholder value-chain, challenges of organisational redesign and related business, culture & communication imperatives.

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