New Delhi : Set to be formally elected by BJP MPs on Tuesday afternoon in the Central Hall of Parliament, Narendra Modi on Monday remained engaged in talks with his lieutenants Aamit Shah and Arun Jaitley. These government formation talks may extend for a few days and the new ministry may take oath on Saturday or Sunday.
Bolstered by the numbers that he has and out of the trap of coalition politics, Modi is being extremely selective in whom he picks for the Union Cabinet.
He has already informed the RSS through Shah that it would be difficult for him to run the show and deliver in the shortest possible time unless he gets a free hand in picking a “good team.”
Modi wants to keep his Cabinet small but he also faces a problem of plenty: he has to accommodate almost a dozen NDA allies. His onerous task was made a simpler by Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, who declared in Jalandhar that his Akali Dal, which won four of the 13 seats in the state, will not seek any position in the Union Government. But other allies need not be that accommodating, especially the Shiv Sena and the TDP.
Modi told the Cabinet Secretary and the Home Secretary who called on him in the afternoon that he plans to have not more than ten ministers
initially. He also asked the Cabinet Secretary to suggest a number of ministries and departments that can be merged. Modi, for instance, would like all departments related to farm sector, such as fertilizers, food and public distribution, to be clubbed into a single ministry; likewise, transport, shipping and railways can be merged into one and environment and industry ministries can be amalgamated as well.
According to Shah, Modi does not take for granted the massive support that he has got on the platter: with it have come huge expectations. Also the masses, especially the youth, may turn against the government if he is not able to come up with something tangible within six months. Every ministry, therefore, will have to prepare a blueprint on the deliverables in the next five years.
He also wants the Cabinet ministers to have some kind of expertise in their portfolios. This, too, will be reflected in the team that Modi inducts. For instance, BJP president Rajnath Singh, who has been lobbying for the Home Ministry, has been told that the agriculture ministry would be more appropriate.
Though Arun Jaitley is hotly projected as the new finance minister, sources said Modi may prefer him as the home minister. Former editor and former union minister Arun Shourie may be roped in as the finance minister. There should be no surprise if M J Akbar is brought in as the information and broadcasting minister. He is not a member of either House of Parliament and as such he will have to sneak in through the Rajya Sabha.
BEELINE FOR BERTHS
Cabinet hopefuls on Monday made the beeline for either the RSS headquarters or party president Rajnath Singh’s residence. Shahnawaz Hussain and Arjun Munda called on the RSS leaders. Others like Varun Gandhi, Uma Bharti, Najma Heptullah, CP Thakur, Anurag Thakur, Gopinath Munde and Vijay Goel visited Rajnath Singh’s residence. Former Telecom minister Arun Shourie was also seen at Rajnath’s residence. Sources said Modi is keen to rehabilitate Shourie, who had fallen out of with the BJP some time back. Sushma Swaraj met Rajnath Singh before driving down to meet Modi at Gujarat Bhawan. Vaiko, an ally of BJP in Tamil Nadu, who lost the election, also met Modi, while YSR Congress chief Jaganmohan Reddy also called on him and extended “issue based” support.