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Cabinet Reshuffle 2017 Has Many Parallels With Rajiv's Exercise of 1985

More than three decades after Rajiv Gandhi's major Cabinet reshuffle, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi prepares to rejig his Cabinet, ministers are being called and asked to put in their papers, exactly like in 1986. However, in 2017, the task is assigned to BJP President Amit Shah.

Sumit Pande | News18.com

Updated:September 2, 2017, 4:06 PM IST
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New Delhi: The oppressive summer Sun in Delhi had relented to usher in a precocious autumn. The festival season in north India was to kick-start in a few days. These were two pleasant months before the heavy fog would descend in December taking weather conditions to another extreme.

One can't be sure if the October morning lethargy was induced by the cool zephyr blowing past Lutyens Delhi, but Arjun Singh reached All India Congress Committee headquarters a little late. The moment he entered his room, the secured REX line in his room buzzed. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi wanted to see Singh immediately at his residence 7, Race Course Road.

News reports from October 1985 give vivid details of how ministers were called in one by one and told to write resignations on a blank piece of paper. This was the second major Cabinet reshuffle effected by Rajiv Gandhi in October, 1986.

More than three decades later, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi prepares to rejig his Cabinet, ministers are being called and asked to put in their papers, exactly like in 1986. However, in 2017, the task was assigned to party President Amit Shah.

Quite like PM Modi, reports during Rajiv Gandhi’s regime that detail the political developments during Gandhi’s regime, show the former PM was in the habit of periodically assessing his ministers and their performance.

An interesting piece of news item just before his first Cabinet reshuffle in 1985 documents in detail how from mid-June a mainframe computer at the Prime Minister's Secretariat, a Hewlett Packard, profiled each minister's targets and achievements. The ministers were summoned individually and explanations were sought.

It is also not the first time that there is a discussion regarding the creation of a unified and composite Transport Ministry.

With Suresh Prabhu having already offered to quit after a series of derailments, surface transport minister Nitin Gadkari is being seen as somebody who can put the rails on track while continuing to hold on to his current charge.

Rajiv Gandhi in 1985, was the first Prime Minister to constitute a super transport ministry. It was headed by Haryana strongman Bansi Lal.

Lal had three Ministers of State working under him — the three Gandhi loyalists, Jagdish Tytler (civil aviation), Rajesh Pilot (surface transport) and Madhav Rao Scindia (railways).

The idea was to infuse fresh blood into the government and also create a buffer for the senior minister whose resignation was sought by the opposition after every rail mishap.

Gandhi also clubbed education, with culture, art, sports, youth welfare and women's affairs and made PV Narasimha Rao responsible for all of it.

A year later, the mantle of the jumbo Transport Ministry was handed over to Mohsina Kidwai. She was in-charge for a few months when Gandhi realised he had created a behemoth with multiple power centres.

Within two years of ushering in this radical change in the way the Indian Railways were run, it was back to square one.

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| Edited by: Sanchari Chatterjee
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