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Modi to be elected BJP leader today 
To meet President, stake claim to form government; suspense over portfolios
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service & PTI

New Delhi, May 19
Narendra Modi is all set to be elected leader of the BJP and NDA parliamentary coalition on Tuesday as jockeying for positions in the new Cabinet gained momentum today.

The 63-year-old Gujarat Chief Minister will meet President Pranab Mukherjee tomorrow after his election as leader of the grouping that will enable the President to invite him to form the government, which may be sworn in by the weekend.

Modi will first be elected BJP Parliamentary Party leader at a meeting in the Central Hall of Parliament around noon and shortly later by the NDA MPs. After this, he will meet the President along with a delegation of coalition leaders — including Punjab Chief Minister and Akali Dal patron Parkash Singh Badal and TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu — who will convey to him their decision to choose Modi as their leader.

A number of names of top BJP leaders including Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Nitin Gadkari, Murli Manohar Joshi and Venkaiah Naidu were doing the rounds for possible inclusion in Modi’s Cabinet. Party vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi could be the sole Muslim face in the Cabinet.

Though there is no official word on who will make it to the Council of Ministers, one thing is certain: it will be smaller, packed with experts and perhaps may also spring a few surprises.

Those familiar with Modi’s style of functioning said he will cut down the flab and opt for a smart and efficient Cabinet that he can monitor closely. “Minimum government and maximum governance is Modi’s mantra. A small and controlled Cabinet is what can be expected from him. This will give him the free hand to do what he wants,” sources said.

The buzz is that he also has in mind a resource group comprising bureaucrats and experts from different fields within the party such as ex-Home Secretary RK Singh and Army ex-Chief VK Singh.

Modi may merge some ministries and rename others such as Human Resource Development (HRD) to give it a more definitive Education Ministry, sources said. Since cleaning of rivers is Modi’s focus area, he may form a Rivers Ministry likely to be headed by Uma Bharti.

Several BJP leaders continued to touch base with Modi and party chief Rajnath Singh. Senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj, perceived to be not on the best of terms with Modi, met him at Gujarat Bhawan, giving rise to speculation that she may not be getting the ministry of her choice. Incidentally the Gujarat Bhawan, where Modi is staying, is a stone’s throw from 7, RCR, the official residence of the Prime Minister.

Earlier in the day, Swaraj met Rajnath while yesterday she was at the RSS headquarters at Keshavkunj. The buzz is Modi is considering Swaraj for the HRD Ministry, but she is keen on one of the four Raisina Hill ministries — Home, Finance, Defence and External Affairs.

On a day that saw varied speculation on Modi’s probable ministers, Swaraj’s name was also bounced as Defence Minister along with that of Murli Manohar Joshi, whose name was also floated for the post of the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission and the Agriculture Minister.

Senior leaders Arun Jaitley and Modi’s key aide Amit Shah also held discussions with the two leaders. Yogi Adityanath, Varun Gandhi and Gopinath Munde also called on them. Leaders who have been flocking to Keshavkunj (read Smriti Irani, Harshvardhan, Rajiv Pratap Rudy and Venkaiah Naidu) have a better chance to land a ministerial berth, sources said.

Though Jaitley’s name is doing the rounds for the Finance Ministry, Modi is learnt to be keen to put Arun Shourie on the job. 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 to his government.

Small, controlled Cabinet?

* Modi’s Council of Ministers is expected to be smaller, packed with experts and may perhaps spring a few surprises

* Those familiar with Modi’s style of functioning said he will opt for a smart and efficient Cabinet he can monitor closely

* A small and controlled Cabinet will give him the free hand to do what he wants, sources said





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