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HindustanTimes Wed,03 Sep 2014

Govt takes shape: Team Modi will be half the size of UPA-2

Shishir Gupta, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, May 26, 2014
First Published: 01:23 IST(26/5/2014) | Last Updated: 09:28 IST(26/5/2014)

Lean is in. The Modi government will be almost half the size of the UPA-2 with ministries bunched and 45-50 “bright, focused and clean” leaders making up the council of ministers, averaging 55 years of age.

On Monday, when Narendra Modi will be sworn in as the 15th Prime Minister of India, with him a small cabinet — to be expanded a later day — will also take oath of office at a grand ceremony in the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley is expected to get the key portfolio of finance along with corporate affairs. Party chief Rajnath Singh could take charge of home while former leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj may be named the minister for external affairs.

Working on Modi’s minimum government maximum governance mantra, the cabinet will be compact and some ministries merged to cut the ‘flab’.

The PM-designate had made a “good beginning” in bunching ministries, a late Sunday statement by Modi’s office said. In the new format, a cabinet minister will head a cluster of ministries in complimentary sectors, the statement said, pointing the exercise to consolidate ministries had kept Modi busy for “four days”.

While party veterans LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi are unlikely to get ministerial berths, former BJP chief Nitin Gadkari is tipped for the transport ministry that is expected to be broadened to include civil aviation, shipping and road.

Another former party chief, M Venkaiah Naidu, could be tasked with urban development.

Delhi BJP chief Harsh Vardhan, Rajya Sabha MP Ravishankar Prasad, former Karnataka CM Sadanand Gowda, party’s Amethi candidate Smriti Irani, who gave a scare to Rahul Gandhi, spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman, general secretary Dharmendra Pradhan and party treasurer Piyush Goel, too, may find a place in the Modi cabinet.

The party’s National Democratic Alliance partners will also be represented in the cabinet. Telugu Desam Party chief N Chandrababu Naidu, who had a closed-door meeting with Modi, is believed to have recommended the name of Vizianagaram MP Ashok Gajapathi Raju. Shiv Sena’s Anant Gete and Lok Janshakti Party’s Ram Vilas Paswan, too, are in the running.

Party general secretary Ananth Kumar and Assam BJP chief Sarbananda Sonowal are said to be in running for a place in the council of ministers. So are mercurial sadhvi Uma Bharti, Pilibhit MP Maneka Gandhi, former UP BJP chief Kalraj Mishra and former army chief Gen (retd) VK Singh.

With Rajnath Singh looking set to join the government, Amit Shah, party’s in-charge of Uttar Pradesh credited with turning around its fortunes in the battleground state by getting 71 of the 80 seats, was leading the race to be the new party chief closely followed by JP Nadda, who represents Himachal in the Rajya Sabha, party sources said.

As reported by HT on May 20, former Intelligence Bureau director Ajit Doval has been sounded out for the position of national security adviser. Nripendra Misra, who served as the chairman of the telecom regulator Trai, could be named principal secretary to the PM. The two appointments are likely to be ordered by Monday evening.

Sources said after the swearing-in, the President will host banquet for Modi, five cabinet ministers, eight visiting heads of state and outgoing PM Manmohan Singh. Parliament will open on June 4 when new MPs will be sworn in through June 5. President Pranab Mukherjee is expected to address both the Houses of Parliament the next day.

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