India Insight

Fresh faces, old issues in India’s new cabinet

Remember the Satyam Computer Services scandal of 2009? This was the story in which its founder cooked the company’s books in what became India’s biggest case of corporate fraud till date.

The scam exposed problems that needed fixing at the Corporate Affairs ministry, and after much delay the Companies Bill is ready to come before Parliament. The task of steering the bill will be handled by the new chief of the ministry, Sachin Pilot. At 35, Pilot is the youngest face in the refurbished, and not entirely young council of ministers in India. He also has no experience in corporate affairs, his earlier posting being at the communications and IT ministry. He will be forced to handle an important bill in the winter session of parliament while still wet behind the ears.

Four ministers held this job in the last three-and-a-half years. With changes at the top occurring at the least provocation, it is tough to say what sort of character the ministry might be proud to make for itself when the intersection of politics and business is in the news for all the wrong reasons. Who can really take any credit if things go as planned and who takes the blame when they don’t?

That is the problem with frequent shuffling in the government. When a minister has a job to do, why not make him or her do it? Why not let them grow into the job? Why not give them time to learn and act wisely? And if it’s the minister who’s the problem — someone who just wants to punch a few tickets on the way to a better job — why not choose ministers who show that they want to help their country, not just themselves?

For example, Sachin Pilot could have been made the minister in charge of communications and IT where he has been a junior minister since 2009. He will now have to learn a new job, and get good at it quickly.

India’s grand old party in need of young blood

By Annie Banerji

With a cabinet reshuffle seemingly around the corner and the Congress party general secretary saying that Rahul Gandhi, the 41-year-old son of party chief Sonia Gandhi, had the potential to be a good prime minister, India’s home minister has now entered the fray to call for fresher faces at the highest level of politics.

In a recent interview with an Indian news channel, P. Chidambaram said that he does not consider the sixties to be the age of political prime in Indian politics; rather he feels sexagenarians in politics should step back from their positions, and leave cabinet posts for the young.

“I think we should have younger politicians. I firmly believe that we should have younger leaders. I think we should have ministers, including cabinet ministers, in their late forties and early fifties. I think those over 60, including myself, should step back,” he was quoted as saying.