PM-to-be wants free hand to pick his team

PM-to-be wants  free hand to pick his team

The heartening mandate for the BJP under his leadership has strengthened Narendra Modi’s resolve for a free hand to choose his team of ministers and assign portfolios, senior BJP leaders conceded on
Friday.

Without appearing to be hard-headed, Modi, who is likely to be sworn in as the Prime Minister on or before May 21, has not minced words in conveying this impression.
As a BJP leader put it, he did not interfere in the selection of party candidates for the Lok Sabha polls. Similarly, he would “appreciate” if he is given freedom to pick his team without the party or its ideological parent, the RSS, thrusting their choices on him.

Modi’s chief concern, as his close aides put it, is performance and the ability to deliver targets. The BJP prime minister designate would also like to include young and fresh faces to infuse energy into the new government.

Nevertheless, Modi is expected to discuss with other BJP leaders, including Rajnath Singh, and finalise a list that is broadly representative of the mandate received across the regions, covering all sections of society. BJP leaders said Modi is not someone who would like anyone to use pressure tactics, but he would also not want any senior leader to feel alienated.

As speculations mounted on the role of patriarch L K Advani, his statement on Friday, in which he did not seem willing to fully credit Modi for the BJP’s success, raised eyebrows in party circles.

Modi may not oblige to pressure from those close to Advani to consider him for the speakership of the Lok Sabha, party insiders said. Neither would he like Sushma Swaraj, who was not keen on his projection as the prime ministerial candidate, to appear to be sulking.

Swaraj scripted success from Vidisha in Madhya Pradesh, but was circumspect about what role she would play in the new government led by Modi.

With the defeat of Arun Jaitley (his close aide) in Amritsar, Modi may have to take a call on his inclusion in the new Cabinet. A Rajya Sabha member, Jaitley was earlier tipped to be number 2 with the possibility of being given the finance portfolio. “I will be happy with a party role,” Jaitley said after the news of his defeat.

BJP chief Rajnath Singh has been clear in conveying that he would prefer the defence portfolio and the number 2 position in the pecking order.

Others who expect a berth include Venkaiah Naidu, Nitin Gadkari, Ananth Kumar and Ravi Shankar Prasad.

BJP circles also expect Modi to throw up a surprise by selecting technocrats or economists. The names of former Union ministers such as Arun Shourie have also been doing the rounds.

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