Speculation about the Union Cabinet reshuffle shows that identity remains the motive force in Indian politics

Speculation about the Union Cabinet reshuffle shows that identity remains the motive force in Indian politics

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to announce a reshuffle of the union cabinet today. Media reports suggest that the reshuffle among governors announced yesterday is a precursor to change in the composition of the council of ministers.

Consequently, there has been speculation in both mainstream and social media about the likely changes. The striking feature of the speculation is that the reshuffle is being largely viewed through the prism of identity, mainly caste and gender. While caste has
been an intrinsic feature of the political calculus, gender has acquired salience in the recent past. Results of assembly elections over the last few years show that women can make a material difference in tight electoral contests.

Once in a while, political analysis posits economic or some other factor as the dominant influence on electoral outcomes. They are plausible explanations. But the durable feature of Indian politics is the mobilisation of support on the basis of identities, particularly that of
caste.

The probable cabinet reshuffle will be one of the most important political developments prior to assembly elections in five states early next year. Of the five, U.P is the most crucial one in terms of the signal it will send for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that identity, and not domain expertise, will dominate an exercise that changes the composition of the council of ministers.

Read also: Cabinet all set for expansion, OBCs may get chunk of berths

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