After an anxious 24 hours between swearing-in of the Council of Ministers and the actual allocation of portfolios (during which the Capital was abuzz with the wildest speculations), Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to have opted for continuity in his choice of Cabinet ministers. The incumbents for the top four berths — Defence, Home, External Affairs and Finance — remain unchanged. The others to sail through the green channel are Ashwini Vaishnaw, Piyush Goyal, Bhupender Yadav and Nitin Gadkari.

Notably, the BJP seems to have taken cognisance of rural distress, which has cost it dear in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and western Uttar Pradesh. The appointment of Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who is credited with agricultural transformation in Madhya Pradesh, as Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare as well Minister of Rural Development is an exceptional move. What is also remarkable is that the allies have been accommodated without much fuss. Besides the Civil Aviation portfolio going to Telugu Desam Party, the rest — Janata Dal (United), Chirag Paswan from Lokl Janshakti Party, Hindustani Awam Morcha leader and former Chief Minister of Bihar Jitan Ram Manjhi and Eknath Shinde’s Shiv Sena — have had to settle for smaller prizes. For instance, the sole representative of Janata Dal (United), Rajiv Ranjan Singh, has been allotted the rather low-profile Panchayati Raj and Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying Ministry.

It is worth asking whether the allies could have bargained for more. But they are dependent on the Centre for support, due to their own compulsions. The TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu has inherited a State in financial doldrums, with a capital city that is yet to be built. Besides, his promised welfare measures need to take off. Nitish Kumar has a similar problem with his State finances. That said, the Prime Minister cannot wish away the altered reality of a coalition, where consensus would have to be the basis for day-to-day running of the new government. There is little room for decisions such as demonetisation or the (now-revoked) farm bills. Contentious issues such as Uniform Civil Code or one-nation-one-election cannot be easily raised. In Parliament, the Prime Minister would encounter an Opposition which has the numbers not just to claim the Leader of Opposition’s slot but also to push debates and insist on sending bills to standing committees for deeper examination.

While the Opposition needs to be aware that the mandate is for ensuring proper scrutiny of legislative business, and not constant disruption, the government needs to be conscious of the fact that it simply does not have the brute majority to ram through legislation anymore. In the 17th Lok Sabha, of the 179 bills passed, as many as 58 per cent were passed within two weeks of their introduction, some within less than an hour of discussion. The Prime Minister has done well to move swiftly and form the government. Now, the onus is on collective decision-making to ensure stability in governance.