No sooner did exit and opinion polls make it clear that the BJP under Narendra Modi was racing towards victory in the 2014 general elections, those who had made themselves comfortable in ministerial berths in the two 1998-2004 Vajpayee Cabinets began to stir themselves to ensure a fresh term in high office. By virtue of having been once ministers, they claim "seniority" over all other comers, and seek to parlay such a quality into a fresh stint in power. Several do not much care for the new Prime Minister, and some such as Sushma Swaraj have made that clear. Once she enters his Council of Ministers, it is likely that she would act as a counter to several of the policies favoured by Modi, thereby slowing down decision-making and ensuring that much of the time of the new PM gets expended in fire fighting among his ministerial colleagues. The fact is that several of the ministers in the NDA administration were less than stellar in their performance, which is why the NDA got defeated at the hustings in 2004. Given the scale and the complexity of the problems confronting Narendra Modi once he takes his oath of office, it is only just that he be allowed to choose his own team, laying emphasis on competence and probity. Filling the incoming Council of Ministers with retreads would be a certain recipe for failure in a context where problems are daunting and the patience and goodwill of the people very finite indeed.
Prime Minister Modi needs to go beyond the limited pool of those who were members of the Vajpayee governments and select ministers from a much wider pool of choices. There is a strong case for bringing in those of proven competence, such as E. Sreedharan or Anil Kakodkar. The new PM should undertake a search for talent within the MPs and choose those whom he believes would be best fitted to undertake the difficult task of getting the economy back on the high-growth track, besides ensuring that terrorists get thwarted in their efforts at mayhem. He should keep out those who have a history of seeking to hobble him, or those who have been rejected by the voters, as also those around whom there is a miasma of suspicion regarding the pursuit and the accumulation of ill-gotten wealth. Narendra Modi is widely respected across the country today because of his probity. Those who form part of his council of ministers ought to come from the same stable, rather than be in thrall to commercial and other vested interests. The Manmohan Singh government found itself paralysed by scandal. Team Modi cannot afford the luxury of having one of its own fall into an abyss of suspicion.