With Amit Shah at helm, will home ministry get a facelift?

The atmosphere is charged in the home ministry

amit-shah-salil Amit Shah during the roadshow in Kolkata | Salil Bera

Jammers, security cordons, bouquets, decorations and a heavy media contingent breathlessly awaited the arrival of top ministers at Raisina Hill. Nirmala Sitharaman took charge as finance minister, S. Jaishankar as foreign minister, and Jitender Singh as a minister of state in the prime minister's office. While Sitharaman moved from the South Block to the North Block, Singh remained in the same office in the North Block.

Amit Shah and Rajnath Singh are yet to take charges in their respective offices in the North and South Blocks. The top four ministers, however, attended the first cabinet meet of the Modi government.

Through the day, hectic movements in the big four ministries atop Raisina Hill—home, defence, external affairs and finance—displayed not only the importance of the senior-most ministers of the Modi cabinet, but the fact that major policies of the Modi government will be driven from here.

With Shah’s appointment, the atmosphere is charged in the home ministry, which has seen several big guns from both the Congress and the BJP—the likes of L.K. Advani and P. Chidambaram—taking charge in the last two decades. But, the excitement is different this time—the huge mandate won by the BJP under Shah as the party president naturally accorded him a high stature.

Given his past statements, it is assumed that Shah will adopt a muscular policy when it comes to issues concerning insurgency and terrorism—be it left wing extremism or Pakistan-sponsored terror in the valley. NSA Ajit Doval, considered to be a hawk himself, is expected to take Shah’s guidance on all issues.

Shah’s appointment as home minister also set the cat among the pigeons on whether he will become the number two in the Modi cabinet, or whether the position will still rest with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh. But, in the seating arrangements at the swearing-in ceremony on Thursday, Rajnath Singh sitting next to Modi and Shah was number three. However, home ministers have traditionally executed tasks in the absence of the prime minister at any stage.

Meanwhile, excitement continued at the North Block even as preparations for the new ministers to take official charge continued through the day. Paintings and wall pictures of the former ministers like Kiren Rijiju were being lifted out of North Block by his staff and taken to the ministry of sports where he has been given independent charge.

Shah, meanwhile, is expected to take charge either late evening or Saturday morning. His entry to Raisina Hill will not go unmissed as the new home minister moves with a heavy security cordon due to high threat perception. Shah has Z-plus category security, consisting of Central armed police forces, which is also expected to get a facelift once the fresh security assessment is done by the intelligence agencies for the new home minister.