A favourite pastime is selecting your all-time best world cricket XI or world football XI, with players from the past and present. Now I am wondering how it would be if you were asked to select your all-time best Indian cabinet, selecting ministers from past and present. I would select the following.
For Prime Minister, I would select Lal Bahadur Shastri. He was the only low-profile Prime Minister that India has had, humble yet confident, firm, determined, won a major war for the country with the minimum of histrionics, then proceed to make peace. He also died an honest man, without a bank account in India or Switzerland.
I would also definitely include Jawaharlal Nehru in the cabinet and I would make him the minister for information and broadcasting. I am not trying to degrade him by this, I am doing so because I cannot think of a better man for what is one of the most important posts.
Nehru would make an admirable I and B minister with his liberal mind (certainly the most liberal mind India has yet produced), passion for free expression of the spoken and written word. I can imagine Doordarshan under him, and films, the management of the press.
For home minister, I would have, a no-nonsense man, either Vallabhbhai Patel or Morarji Desai. With Sardar Patel there, I can visualise what would happen to regional organisations like the Shiv Sena and regional politicians like Mr. Sharad Pawar.
For finance minister, I would go back to Mr. C.D. Deshmukh. For law and judiciary, Mr. M.C. Chagla. For external affairs, I would, after some deliberation, have Mr. Rajiv Gandhi. At least, he is presentable, talks softly, does not make unnecessary enemies, champions the causes of the Third World, but not too loudly.
I do not know who I would have as education minister. It would have to be a woman, but there are so few women, but there are so few women of real merit in Indian world politics. Take away Mrs. Golda Meir and who is there, left.
I would like to find positions for Madhu Limaye and Madhiu Dandavate, but, perhaps, they are best suited for the opposition. Lohia would be totally out in my cabinet, and S.A. Dange, in fact, most people would return as minister of food or urban development. I put him high up in the category of ministers who can perform. And I would bring back Vasant Sathe, but only as minster of state or deputy minister for information and broadcasting. As he would be working directly under Nehru, I am sure he would not mind. But I would keep Jagjivan Ram out, the country cannot afford to lose too many days in public mournings.
As for chief ministers, I would dismiss the whole lot of them, present and past, except two, Mr. Vasantrao Naik in Maharashtra and Mr. Ramakrishna Hegde in Karnataka.