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Poor representation for Kerala and TN in Cabinet

In the expansion of the Union Cabinet, taking the total strength to 66, Kerala and Tamil Nadu have been neglected. Both the states received very large representation in the UPA governments. Kerala did not elect a single MP on BJP ticket; Tamil Nadu returned just one, Pon Radhakrishnan. He has been made a minister of state for ports & shipping. With elections due only in 2016, the party perhaps did not feel it imperative to woo the state electorates by strong representation. This factor influenced larger representation to Bihar and Jharkhand. Bihar now has six ministers, forming nearly a tenth of the total numbers.

When Kerala returned a large number of Congressmen in the earlier elections, the UPA II government had given it large representations to them, including the portfolio of Defence. In the previous government, the DMK’s pressure, plus the large number of  alliance MPs returned, won for the state 13 ministers.

Did such heavy representation do much good for the concerned states? Not really. Very few of the ministers made a mark in their portfolios. Neither A K Antony nor the DMK nominees were known for their contributions. A Raja was thickly involved in the 2G scam. Of the Congress ministers, P Chidambaram was an exception. Sadly, the economy was in bad shape and the visible impact was the projection of Chidambaram’s son Karthi.

With limited talent within the party,  Modi has scouted for talents outside the Parliament. Drafting Manohar Parikkar from Goa and Suresh Prabhu (who defected from the Sena) into the cabinet has added strength to the administration. A similar attempt could have been made in scouting for professionals from outside the party fold like S Gurumurthy from Tamil Nadu.

The adversarial relation between the AIADMK and the Centre that peaked during the UPA II was also not helping the state’s cause. Several Central projects relating to highways, gas pipelines, coal bed methane... have been stalled. The AIADMK won 37 out of 39 seats for Lok Sabha, but has not bothered to leverage this strength by cozying up with the BJP.  The DMK, despite being part of the coalition at the Centre for 15 years, had not put it to use for the advancement of the state’s interests.  These two Dravidian parties can do well to look at the way Chandrababu Naidu of Seemandhara has been doing this.

Since 1967, the national parties have not been active in Tamil Nadu. But with AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa forced to step down and the DMK riven by family dissensions, there is the opportunity for the national parties to build their strengths. Sadly, the Congress is riven with groupism that had culminated in a good section of it moving out under G K Vasan. There are  diverse groups owing allegiance to different state leaders, each pulling in different directions.

BJP President, Amit Shah, can invest his organisational skills in building the party from scratch. If he could do it in UP and Maharashtra, he can do it in Tamil Nadu as well. The time is opportune for the party to do it now.


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