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Talking Point: Will India have a young cabinet?

CNN-IBN
May 19, 2009 at 03:24am IST

In the last Lok Sabha, only three Cabinet ministers were born after 1947, but many are hoping to see a difference this time around. If Rahul Gandhi joins the Cabinet, the average age may come down drastically. Two potential ministers of the next Cabinet, Congress' Sachin Pilot and NCP's Praful Patel, joined CNN-IBN to discuss the issue.

New Delhi: In the last Lok Sabha, only three Cabinet ministers were born after 1947, but many are hoping to see a difference this time around. If Rahul Gandhi joins the Cabinet, the average age may come down drastically. Two potential ministers of the next Cabinet, Congress' Sachin Pilot and NCP's Praful Patel, joined CNN-IBN to discuss the issue.

CNN-IBN: Sachin Pilot, last time, you had hoped to become a minister but instead Congress chose someone over 75 years of age from Rajasthan. Will we see a younger Cabinet this time?

Sachin Pilot: Well, the time for young people to take Indian politics in their hand has definitely arrived and under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi, younger MPs are being directed towards the mainstream of politics. But I think this whole question of Cabinet formation should be best left to the man who has to do the job - Dr Manmohan Singh. It is his discretion and prerogative to choose Cabinet ministers. In the 14th Lok Sabha, the UPA government had a balanced Cabinet - a few young faces, a few experienced ones.

CNN-IBN: But only three Cabinet ministers were born after 1947 and the junior ministers were brought in only at the fag end of the five-year-term

Sachin Pilot: There were a lot of coalition partners then and I suspect there was less elbow room, but we are getting a bit carried away with this whole date of birth issue. It's not the age but the person's approach to their job which matters - are you creative, imaginative, do you have energy, fresh and new ideas. That is the job of the government as a collective entity and it is never one or two ministers who run the government. It is a whole council of ministers. I think the Congress can take the largest credit of ushering in younger people into public life and that is the ascent of this election. I think in the times to come, you will see greater participation of youth in Indian politics.

CNN-IBN: Would the lack of younger leadership in the Cabinet be a rejection of this mandate? We have seen the young voter come out like never before, and we have also seen that 40 per cent of this Parliament is filled with MPs under the age of 50. Doesn't this mean that a large part of the Cabinet should be young?

Praful Patel: Well I wouldn't look at it as a rejection of the mandate, but certainly there is a point to have more and more young people and I agree with what Sachin says in terms of imagination, in terms of delivery systems, in terms of being creative and being visionary. That is very important for you can have young people and have no delivery at all. I think governance is slightly different than being just a representative of the people and I am sure most young people do have very good qualities in terms of being good managers and looking after the interest of the nation. This is the job of the number one person in the Cabinet and that is the Prime Minister.

CNN-IBN: Reports suggest the Congress wants to play Big Brother and cut allies down to size. Would you be comfortable if the Prime Minister decides that the NCP just gets one ministerial berth this time instead of two?

Praful Patel: I don't want to come in the way of the Prime Minister's prerogative. I think we have said this yesterday (Sunday) also that we the NCP, would leave the decision to the collective wisdom of the UPA. The Cabinet formation in a coalition is not the decision of one party. I think all party leaders - when they meet on Wednesday - will decide what will be the constitution of the Cabinet in terms of size and in terms of what responsibility has to be given subsequently is the prerogative of the Prime Minister. In a coalition concept, let us not pre-judge anything. And if everybody agrees to a formula, NCP has no reason to go in another direction.

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CNN-IBN: Sachin Pilot, are you going to push for Rahul Gandhi for the Prime Minister's job?

Sachin Pilot: We made it very clear when we went to polls that our candidate for the Prime Minister's post was Dr Manmohan Singh and now it is well-established that he is the man who the country is looking up to as the Prime Minister.

CNN-IBN: Should Rahul Gandhi be a minister? Do you believe he should shoulder that responsibility?

Sachin Pilot: Dr Manmohan Singh had very clearly said that he would like Rahul Gandhi to take up a ministerial berth, but the ultimate decision will lie with Rahul Gandhi himself.

CNN-IBN: Why should that not be the Prime Minister's preroagtive as well? Is Rahul Gandhi more important than the Prime Minister that he decides not to take up a post offered to him?

Sachin Pilot: Please don't put words in my mouth. Dr Manmohan Singh had very clearly said in the last elections too that he would like Rahul Gandhi to take up a ministerial berth. Now it's up to the Congress leadership and Sonia Gandhi whether they want Rahul Gandhi as a minister. What he has done in the last three years is energise Congress workers across the country. That is his job and he has it well cut out in front of him. He geared up the cadre and Congress with 206 MPs is a phenomenal victory and I think all of that credit goes to Rahul Gandhi. He campaigned for me and we know the kind of electricity he generated, so he knows his job and the decision to take up a ministerial berth lies with him alone.

CNN-IBN: Praful Patel, five years you were civil aviation minister. Are you happy if you get the same berth or is there any special ministry you would like?

Praful Patel: No I can't chose. Even last time I did not ask for a ministry.

CNN-IBN: Last time allies chose the ministers. Last time DMK wanted Telecom. Will this be any different? Can allies bulldoze their way into ministries?

Praful Patel: I disagree with you as far as NCP is concerned. I don't know about others and I don't want to comment. I was given civil aviation and Mr Sharad Pawar (NCP chief) was given food and agriculture and both of us in our limited way have tried to give a good performance and do justice to the jobs we were entrusted with. I don't think we can give a certificate to ourselves. It's ultimately for the people to decide.

CNN-IBN: The voter has chosen a national party this time and not smaller regional parties. Will the NCP consider joining the Congress?

Praful Patel: Most people in the NCP are ex-Congress but now we have chosen to form our separate party, we have our own identity and we are with our own ideologies working for a secular government - for good governance and development. I think to that extent, even if we are separate entities we can always chose to work together even as we have in the last few years.

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