Notwithstanding the loud talk of performance criteria considered for cabinet reshuffle, the fact remains that, in Parliamentary democracy, ministry formation is certainly a political exercise, that too when the nation,especially the party in power,is entering the election phase – it is more politics than an exercise of governance. More so when the grapevine says that this will be, perhaps, the last such reshuffle before the Modi government goes to the electorate for afresh mandate in 2019.
The only representative in the Modi ministry from Telangana, Bandaru Dattatreya, was dropped from the council of ministers much to the consternation of party and political circles in the state. Infact, it is still afresh in the minds of people of this new state that Telangana was ignoredwhen the first ministry of Modi was constituted. It was only after a string of protests over ignoring the state of Telangana that Dattatreya was inducted into the union council of ministers.Obviously, a similar sentiment of outrage is now discernible over the gross undermining of Telangana.
His loyalty to the party is unquestionable. Besides, his social background and his acceptability across the political spectra are added advantages. Infact, he has no critics in the rivalparties. But, the state party leadership is not united in rallying behind him. Theinternal differences in state BJP are out in the open. Sources in the state BJP reveal that no two state leaders in Telangana BJP can go along. Infact, even the partyall Indiapresident, Amit Shah, has also expressed displeasure over the infighting crippling the state party.
Political circles believe that the lack of unity among state party leaders is also one of the reasons for not choosing a successor to Dattatreya. Names of leaders like Muralidhar Rao and Shriram Vedirewere doing rounds till the last minute. However, nothing materialised in the last moment. Even the party leaders in the state are groping in the rubble over identifying the factors that led tothe state being non-represented in the union council of ministers.
Telangana is one of the Mission-7 states which BJP is concentrating on for 2019. Theparty won maximum seats from many states in the North. There is no scope for improvement there. Infact, there is every likelihood of the party losing some seats at least. Therefore, the party strategy is to compensate those losses from the seven states which the partydescribed as Mission-7 states.
Within the so-called Mission-7 states, the prospects of BJP showing atleast some impact are inTelangana. Even compared to Andhra Pradesh, the BJP has abetter popularity in Telangana. However, together with its ally, TDP, the party's winning chances are weighed better in Andhra Pradesh. Besides, the BJPclaims to be a principal contender for TRS even surpassing the Congress. Yet, the Prime Minister and the party president chose to ignore Telangana while it comes to the forming ministry. Whatever may be the public posturing of the state BJP leaders, the treatment meted out to the state is politically indigestible to party and unacceptable to the people of Telangana.
In case the BJP continues with this approach as far as Telangana is concerned, the only way the state can get representation is if TRS joins the NDA. Such speculation was rife in the political circles as the Chief Minister and TRS supremo, K Chandrashekar Rao, was in New Delhi exactly at atime when the cabinet reshuffle exercise was being carried out. However, the TRS for now ruled out any such possibility. But, both the BJP and the TRS leaders in the state having knowledge of party tactics do not rule out the possibility ofthe TRS joining the NDA at a later date.
The TRS and the state government always had cordial relations with Central BJP leadership and government. Chief Minister,in fact, enjoys better clout with Prime Minister than many of the state BJP leaders despite the localparty leaders’ vehement criticism of the TRS government. The political grapevine even tells that no BJP leader was inducted in the Modi ministry to facilitate the TRS entry.
Speaking on the national television, the BJPnationalspokesperson defended such non-representation to Telangana on the ground of performance considered as the only indicatorfor ignoring the parochial considerations like caste and region. However, the same spokesperson, when cornered by this author, refuses to comment on the question whether Bandaru Dattatreya was dropped due to his non-performance. Such a commentary is an affront to the party and the people in Telangana.
Modi willcertainly be appreciated if merit and performance are the only eligible criteria for inclusion into the ministry. But,does the non-representation to the state mean that there is no meritorious, competent and performing leader in the state BJP to be eligible for inclusion in the Modi ministry?Assuming that such an interpretation is made and accepted, Modi should have picked up a bureaucrat from the state as he did with states like Kerala. Certainly, BJP is much stronger in Telangana than in Kerala.
Modi has chosen bureaucrats even though they are not members of either house of Parliament. Anyhow, the seat vacated by Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu isthere to send anyone from Telangana to Parliament to facilitate his or her inclusion into the union council of ministers.
It is much more surprising that no BJP leader from AndhraPradesh was inducted into the union council of ministers to substitute for the Vice-President, M Venkaiah Naidu, who remained the guiding force for safeguarding the interests of state, especially post-bifurcation. Nirmala Sitharaman's elevation cannot be interpreted as greater representation for the state as her meteoric rise in politics cannot be attributed to state politics.
Here again, the political circles feel that lack of unanimity on the choice of the new minister within the state BJP has contributed to this situation.
One can argue that how the representation would matter so much as the union ministry represents the entire nation. But, this is only a cliche. The fact remains that states need someone to strongly articulate and lobby for their interests in the corridors of power in the nationalcapital. Non-representation certainly hurts the interests of the stateconcerned. Atleast, AndhraPradeshcannot complain of this problem as TDP ensured representation for the state. But, Telangana is certainly deprived.