Shortly after Narendra Modi came to power in May 2014, concerns have been raised over the relative “inexperience” of his cabinet ministers and its impact on governance. In fact, a web search for the term “Modi Government inexperience” turns up between 800,000 and 5.9 million hits, depending on the search engine.
A more detailed look at the Modi cabinet’s background shows that more than half of full cabinet ministers had held ministerial positions in the past- the same proportion as the Singh cabinet. Moreover, close to a third of Modi’s cabinet has experience running large bureaucracies, either as a chief minister or as a state minister. Here we directly compare Modi’s cabinet experience to that of former prime minister Manmohan Singh’s original cabinet in 2004 by the numbers:
Modi’s Cabinet (23 Ministers)
The percentage of current ministers who held portfolios in the previous BJP government. Of the 23 cabinet ministers, 12 were ministers between 1999 and 2004. The “big four” Ministries—Home Affairs, Finance, Defense and External Affairs—are held by veteran administrators – Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj.
The number of former Chief Ministers (CM) in the current cabinet. The list includes Narendra Modi- former CM of Gujarat, Rajnath Singh- former CM of Uttar Pradesh, Sushma Swaraj- briefly CM of Delhi, and Sadananda Gowda- former CM of Karnataka.
The percentage of ministers who have had prior experience governing a State or running ministries at the state level. Five cabinet ministers currently in charge of important ministries such as Road Transport, Civil Aviation, Mines and Steel are either former Chief Ministers or state cabinet ministers from large states like Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh.
The percentage of ministers who never held national or state ministries, nor been the chief minister of a state. Some of them have been Rajya Sabha members or members of Parliament committees.
Manmohan Singh’s Original Cabinet in 2004 (29 Ministers)
The percentage of ministers who held ministerial portfolios previously- the same percentage as the present Modi administration. Singh, too, assigned the big “four” Ministries to veterans- Pranab Mukherjee for Defence, Palaniappan Chidambaram for Finance, Shivraj Patil for Home Affairs and Natwar Singh for External Affairs.
The number of former CMs and Governors in Singh’s cabinet. Laloo Prasad Yadav and Shankersinh Vaghela ran the Railways and Textiles ministries and were Chief Ministers of Bihar and Gujarat respectively. Hansraj Bhardwaj and Mahaveer Prasad held the ministries of Law & Justice and Small & Medium Enterprises respectively, and were Governors of Kerala and Himachal Pradesh respectively.
The percentage of ministers who had prior experience governing a state or running ministries at the state level. Eight cabinet ministers were in charge of ministries such as Railways, Mines, Tribal Affairs, Labour & Employment and were either former CMs, Governors or state cabinet ministers.
The percentage of ministers in Singh’s original cabinet who never held national or state ministries, nor been the chief minister or governor of a state.