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Merit dominates Team Modi 3.0, caste gets short shrift

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In concentrating a bit too much on Nirmala Sitharaman’s super elevation — to Cabinet rank and as Minister for Defence — we may be missing the wood for the trees. There may be some statistical delight in the fact that Sitharaman is independent India’s first full-time woman Defence Minister, an alumnus of the Jawaharlal Nehru Nehru (an institution which tilts to the Left and often to the extreme-Left), one among the many spokespersons of the BJP before she became a Rajya Sabha member and was inducted in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first Cabinet as a Minister for State with independent charge of commerce, and an early advocate of Modi as the prime ministerial candidate in the build-up to the 2014 general election. But there is more to Sunday’s ministerial reshuffle than her elevation.

The changes were refreshing, and not just for the induction of new faces. Two conventional and often narrow considerations, electoral and caste, were done away with. The maximum number of inductees were from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, both of which States have no elections coming soon. The same can be said of States such as Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, which also saw their representation rise. On the other hand, those such as Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, where Assembly polls are due later this year, drew a blank. Clearly, the Prime Minister and BJP chief Amit Shah were not overly bothered by........

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