Dr. Singh, a younger Cabinet isn’t enough

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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in an interaction with editors the other day, hinted at a Cabinet reshuffle before the winter session of Parliament in November.

Among other things, he also said that he would like to reduce the mean age of the Cabinet. It could either mean he would want to drop some of the older folk or bring in younger blood, or both.

He excluded himself saying that he was not up for retirement. Two Ministers, who were born in the same decade as Singh, are lightweight External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna (born in 1932, the same year as Singh) and heavyweight Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee (1935).

The next rung of seniors was born in the 1940s — Agricul-ture, Food and Civil Supplies Minister Sharad Pawar (1940), information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni (1942), P. Chidambaram (1945), Mini-ster of State for Science, Technology and Earth Sciences Prithviraj Chauhan (1946) and HRD Minister Kapil Sibal (1948). The 1950s brigade includes Minister for Chemicals and Fertilizers M. Alagiri of DMK (1950), Minister of State for Environ-ment and Forests Jairam Ramesh (1954), Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel (1955), and D.K. Purandeswari (1959). The real youth corps includes the baby-boomer of the 1970s: Minister for Industry Jyotiraditya Scindia (1971), Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas Jitin Prasada (1973), and Minister of State for Telecommunications Sachin Pilot (1977).

The baby of the team is Minister of State for Rural Development Agatha Sangma (1980).

On the face of it, it does appear that there is a reasonable age spread across the decades. At the most Singh can induct a few from those born in the 1970s, including Rahul Gandhi. And that could reduce the mean age, which is more a statistical measure than anything else. There is the perception that India is a young country led by old people and perhaps the Prime Minister is conscious of that. Most of the younger people are heirs-apparent, and a berth in the cabinet is seen as an entitlement. It will be difficult for Singh to change that dynamic of national politics.

While Singh’s emphasis on young blood is more than politically correct, it would be futile if the young play the old game of politics and bring no new ideas to the table. Generation change has to translate into a game changer as well. What he may want to do perhaps is to bring in younger people who then can rub shoulders with the seniors and learn the ropes as it were.

Courtesy: DNA India

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