Thursday, October 6, 2022

Now that Jaitley won’t be in Modi 2.0, Who Will be the next FM?

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New Delhi: The rumour that was doing rounds in the corridors of power is settled for now. Arun Jaitley will not be in Modi 2.0 cabinet. In a letter written to the PM (Copy attached here) Jaitley has made it official that he will not be the next Finance minister, or for that matter any minister. His deteriorating health condition does not allow him to take up the responsibility of a ministerial portfolio. Jaitley has asked for some time to focus on his treatment and health challenges.

Very few would argue that Arun Jaitley was no.2 in Narendra Modi government, and unarguably one of the top five ministers in the cabinet, who for a long time held two important portfolios simultaneously – finance and defence. After winning a massive mandate now, PM Modi will have to find a replacement for Jaitley that can boost the slowing down of the economy. But the million dollar question is- who is going to be PM Modi’s finance minister?

A Gujarati brain to put the economy back on track?

The biggest challenge the next finance minister will have to face is to turn around the economy. Regardless of the fact that Modi praised Arun Jaitley in public at various occasions the state of the economy is in doldrums. Early signs have indicated a weak monsoon may hamper PM Modi’s efforts to double the farmer’s income by 2022. Also, the NDA government was not able to keep its promise of increasing the share of manufacturing in the country’s GDP to 25% in its first tenure.

In the midst of all these challenges, a name that is strongly being speculated inside the party circles that Amit Shah might be considered for the finance portfolio. A Gujarati brain Shah has already proved the strategic might of his brain in organisational consolidation, it is being said the Gujarati is a much-needed brain to put the economy back on the fast track.

Some also argue that he does not have experience of finance, but then, did Arun Jaitley have? Did P. Chidambaram have? Both were lawyers

Shah has ministerial experience as well, as he has handled around a dozen portfolios, including minister of state for home affairs and parliamentary affairs when PM Modi was chief minister of Gujarat. Some also argue that he does not have experience of finance, but then, did Arun Jaitley have? Did P. Chidambaram have? Both were lawyers.

Jayant has the skill and experience both, but stature?

From November 2014 to July 2016 Sinha worked under Jaitley as Minister of State in Ministry of Finance. SOurces say that he helped Jaitley in driving landmark initiatives such as PM Mudra loan Yojana, Social Security Platform, devising the Indradhanush package for public sector banks, launching the India Aspiration Fund to promote entrepreneurship, and strengthening India’s capital markets. Sinha a fund manager himself understands finance, investors, markets and how to pitch for FDI and thus makes for a perfect bid for the finance minister post as well. But the politics take a left turn from here. Shadow of Yashwant Sinha, who has been extremely vocal in criticising Modi on every possible public platform may severely dent Sinha’s chances for the post of FM.

By argument, Goel is the most probable contender

Now that Arun Jaitley has officially opted out of the race, the most probable contender for the post seems to be Piyush Goel. This year only Goyal presented the Interim Budget as an interim Finance Minister when Jaitley had to take a break and leave for the US for his treatment. Because of Jaitley’s absence from ministry, on and off, in the past 18 months, Piyush Goyal is very much a natural choice for the post. Apart from that Goel has the experience to work with several key portfolios including Railways and Power. In fact, he has done a fantastic job with Railways. Goyal’s problem-solving abilities is one of his key strengths, something that would come in handy for the FM to help build consensus for push through tough reforms that are need of the hour.

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