The buzz over Cabinet berths of the incoming Narendra Modi government has grown stronger in the run-up to the swearing-in ceremony. The Prime Minister-designate will open his cards on Monday evening, but HT readers have already picked their favourites to head various key portfolios in the government.
Entries for a predict-and-win contest on hindustantimes.com show that the top pick of the readers for the job of home minister is Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Rajnath Singh.
While Rajnath Singh, tipped to get either the defence or the home portfolio, wants to continue in his party role, senior leaders are trying to persuade him to join the Cabinet, according to sources.
More than 243 of the 1750 people who took the survey by 9:30pm on Sunday also think Rajnath Singh is a good choice to head the defence ministry.
Another important portfolio, external affairs, should be the destination of BJP leader Sushma Swaraj, our readers told us. Swaraj has reportedly conveyed her readiness to work in a "respectable position" in Modi.
The initial trends of the contest have aligned themselves with another popular speculation doing the rounds. A majority of the respondents think Arun Jaitley should head the finance ministry. Sources in the BJP earlier indicated Jaitley and Arun Shourie were the top two contenders for the post.
A file photo of senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Arun Jaitley during an election campaign event in Amritsar. (AFP photo)
While reports deem it unlikely that chief of NDA-ally LJP and former railway minister Ram Vilas Paswan will get the portfolio again, HT readers believe he has what it takes to jumpstart the sector. Indian Railways has been struggling with infrastructure problems and Modi is likely to give the task to someone from the core BJP team.
The respondents think the BJP's winner from Bangalore South, Ananth Kumar, should be given the commerce and industry berth. BJP veteran LK Advani is understood to have recommended Kumar's name among others to the party leadership for key Cabinet assignments.
Another key post, the new agriculture minister could have a tough first task if an El Niño weather pattern is recorded this year. The phenomenon can shake up global weather and trigger a poor monsoon in India, potentially triggering a drought. The top pick in our survey to take this possible challenge head on is former BJP chief Venkaiah Naidu.
The BJP has had a tough time taking a call on the role that two veterans, Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, will play. The respondents think Joshi should get the human resource development ministry. He, however, has shown interest in finance or external affairs, according to sources.
Bharatiya Janata Party senior leaders LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi at a function to felicitate Narendra Modi at the party headquarters in New Delhi. (PTI photo)
However, the decision on Advani has proven to be a complex issue for the BJP. Advani is keen to be Lok Sabha Speaker, a constitutional position whose occupant doesn't report to the PM, Modi in this case. But Modi has his reservations about what the two leaders want. Around a thousand readers predict that Advani will get the desired post of the Lok Sabha Speaker.
A majority of them also think that Smriti Irani will be made the information and broadcasting minister in the new government. A member of the Rajya Sabha from Gujarat, Irani is considered close to Modi. Currently holding the post of party's vice-president, she headed the BJP's women front when Nitin Gadkari was party president. She is known for her oratory skills.