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HindustanTimes Wed,17 Sep 2014

Modi keeps old guard guessing, likely to take oath on May 24

Kumar Uttam  New Delhi, May 18, 2014
First Published: 17:24 IST(18/5/2014) | Last Updated: 10:40 IST(19/5/2014)

Day 2 in the Capital and it was all business for Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi who held a series of meetings through Sunday, working on the contours of his government and the roles for party veterans LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi.

Modi is expected to take oath on May 24, which is Ekadashi, a holy day in Hindu calendar, with dozen-odd ministers and expand his cabinet later, possibly on June 2 or 3. The date for the swearing-in will be decided after the BJP parliamentary party elects him its leader Tuesday.

Modi arrived to a hero’s welcome in the Capital on Saturday after leading the BJP to a huge win in the Lok Sabha polls. The BJP’s 282 seats is the first time in 30 years that a single party has gone past the 272-majority mark on its own steam. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance will have 336 members in the lower house.  

Read: Advise Narenrda Modi, choose ministers for his cabinet

The first task that Modi seems to have set for himself is settling the prickly issue of suitably accommodating Advani, 86, and Joshi, 80, who haven’t shared the best of relations with the PM-elect.

On Sunday, he met the two leaders separately to ascertain the role they were looking at.

A couple of months ago, the BJP and its ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), had unsuccessfully tried to retire them from active politics offering them membership of the Rajya Sabha, the House of Elders. 

Read: We will decide role of senior BJP leaders, says Rajnath

Advani is keen to be Lok Sabha Speaker, a constitutional position whose occupant doesn’t report to the PM, Modi in this case, while Joshi has shown interest in finance or external affairs. But, Modi has his reservations about what the two leaders want.

The role that party chief Rajnath Singh will play is also being talked about. While Singh, tipped to get either the defence or the home portfolio, wants on continue in his party role, senior leaders are trying to persuade him to join the cabinet.

Former party chief Nitin Gadkari, seen as a possible replacement for Singh, is, however, inclined to be part of the Modi government. “He is eying the finance portfolio,” a senior party leader confirmed on condition of anonymity.

For now, he has left Delhi for Leh for a family vacation and will be back on May 20.

Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje who met Modi is believed to have made some recommendations for the cabinet.

Read: After Jaitley rout, Kalia aides pitch for his induction in cabinet

Party general secretary Dharmendra Pradhan talked about the party’s plans for Bihar where political drama continued Sunday. Modi also met former Karnataka CM BS Yeddyurappa and party general secretary JP Nadda.

Advani is understood to have recommended senior leader Sushma Swaraj, general secretary Ananth Kumar and party’s deputy leader in Rajya Sabha Ravishankar Prasad for key cabinet assignments, the RSS, too, suggested names it would like to see in the next government.

Modi, said sources, revealed little during the meetings, leaving party leaders to speculate on the distribution of portfolios.

 


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