Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The BJP's Warhorse

One year since the BJP Government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi was elected in a sweeping electoral mandate, it's cabinet and council of ministers are cemented and, one year ahead, they can be assessed. In this quick series, we will assess some key ministries that impact the entire country. First up, HRD and the rather controversial HRD Minister Smriti Irani, the youngest members of the Union Cabinet at just 38. Obviously, handling such a challenging ministry was never going to be easy, but she did come with a lot of administrative experience from her party activities.

Right from the beginning, she was the weakest link in the government, having had no real influence either electorally or in the Delhi networking circle (a la Arun Jaitley). Nonetheless, her history of fighting against tall leaders like Kapil Sibal and Rahul Gandhi in their own backyards has given her quite a thick skin. And she certainly needed it, as an extremely hostile media ran tirade after tirade against her. Indeed, after Narendra Modi himself, no Minister has faced such media persecution as she has. However, quite unlike the Prime Minister, Irani has been quite successful in battling the sold-out media. In interview after interview, she has exposed the biased reporting that she has become accustomed to. In her latest interview with Rajdeep Sardesai, who is known to have pro-AAP leanings, she laid his concocted controversies to bear.

However, ultimately, Smriti Irani's job is not to fend off a hostile media - her job is to manage education in India from a broad policy perspective. In that respect, her intent has been very ambitious - to end the stranglehold of the leftist academia in determining Indian education policy. It is well-known that since the days of Nehru, Indian academia has been packed with leftists and the right-wing intelligentsia has been starved of official patronage and also persecuted in equal measure. Irani, by trying to undo this, has invited scorn from possibly the most powerfully entrenched lobby in Delhi, no doubt the prime reason for the hostility she has faced from every quarter. And yet she has persisted doggedly with the new Education Policy, a persistence that deserves praise from those who share her goals.

Possibly, someone with more experience and academic credentials might have been able to do a better job. But then again, someone with more experience in the system would have a powerful desire not to change it. In that respect, a complete outsider is the only person who can make such far-reaching changes. In that respect, Irani has her task cut out, but her performance has been just average. 

No comments: