Breaking his silence over reports about his possible appointment as defence minister, Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar on Thursday said BJP chief Amit Shah had asked him to take up an assignment at the Centre, if offered, and that he was willing to shoulder the responsibility.
He also said though he does not feel comfortable about shifting to Delhi, he will take up the responsibility "if nation requires" his services.
"Party President Amit Shah spoke to me in the morning and asked me to accept any assignment that would be given by the Prime Minister,"
Parrikar told reporters. However, he did not disclose whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi had offered him the defence portfolio during their meeting on Wednesday.
"I want to give proper information as far as joining the cabinet is concerned. It is the prerogative of the Prime Minister. However, I would like to inform that the party has indicated to me that if such assignment comes, you should accept it," he said.
Parrikar said if any offer had to come, it would have to be before November 9, when union cabinet would be expanded. "The party would not have asked me (to accept the offer) if they (top BJP leaders) had not interacted with the Prime Minister," he added.
Parrikar, who led BJP to victory in the 2012 Assembly polls, said he was not comfortable about having to shift to the Centre. "I am not comfortable, I have too much affection towards the state. But rationality tells me if nation requires your services, I should take it.
Whenever Goa wants my services, I will be there," he said. "One reservation (about moving to Delhi) is because I have been elected for a five-year term with a popular mandate.
My feeling is unless I complete the term it is not right on my part to leave mid-way. If I get an offer from the Prime Minister, then I will let you know what are my reasons for accepting the offer," he said.
Parrikar said he would be meeting BJP MLAs on Friday to brief them about the development. He, however, refused to say anything about who would be his successor. "There are many issues in deciding the successor... his capacity to deliver and to take everyone along. That is party's internal assessment," he said.
Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, who was minister of state in the Vajpayee government, is likely to become minister in charge of statistics and planning, the sources said. His entry will provide the Cabinet another prominent Muslim face, after minority affairs minister Najma Heptullah.
Jayant Sinha, who holds a Harvard MBA and is the son of for mer finance minister Yashwant Sinha, is likely to be inducted as minister of state (MoS), either in the defence or finance ministry. Nirmala Sitharaman may be promoted from MoS to Cabinet minister, likely in charge of the commerce and industry ministry, and give up her current additional role as MoS in the finance ministry.
Haryana leader Birender Singh, who had crossed over from the Congress to the BJP ahead of the Haryana Assembly election, is understood to be in contention for a berth in the council of ministers. He is likely to get independent charge of a ministry.
BJP’s youth wing chief Anurag Thakur, a Lok Sabha MP from Himachal Pradesh, and Maharashtra MP Hansraj Gangaram Ahir, who was instrumental in uncovering the coal block scam, are other probable candidates.
Bihar MPs Ashwini Kumar Choubey, a Brahmin, and Giriraj Singh, a Bhumihar, are also aid to be serious contenders for a place in the council of ministers. MPs from Uttarakhand and West Bengal may miss the bus again, said sources. Modi is understood to be considering lightening the burden of some ministers holding more than one portfolio.
Ravi Shankar Prasad (law, communication & IT), Prakash Javadekar (I&B and environment), Nitin Gadkari (rural development, road transport & highway, panchayati raj and drinking water) and Piyush Goyal (power, coal, new and renewable energy) are among the ministers who hold multiple portfolios. Speculation is also rife about changes in Rail Bhawan and in Krishi Bhawan. Given the PM’s motto of “minimum government, maximum governance”, the sources ruled out any large scale expansion. Modi’s present team includes 22 cabinet ministers and an equal number of MoS.