Modi, compact team to be sworn in today

Union Cabinet likely to have 18 senior ministers

Modi, compact team to be sworn in today

Narendra Modi, who will be sworn in as India’s 15th prime minister on Monday, has decided to go for a “compact” Union Council of Ministers consisting  senior BJP leaders, including Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and Nitin Gadkari.

In a clear indication that Modi will effect major changes in the structure of the government, a statement issued by his secretariat late on Sunday night said: “Focus is on convergence of activities of various ministries. One Cabinet minister will be heading a cluster of ministries which handle complementary sectors.”

Modi is eventually aiming at “smart governance” where the top layers of the government will be downsized while the lower levels, including junior ministers, will see an expansion, the statement said.

The guiding principle is “minimum government but maximum governance”, which was Modi’s slogan during the elections.

The Modi Cabinet, it is said, will not have more than 18 Cabinet ministers, five ministers of state (MoS) with independent charge and 19 MoS. The list of ministers is likely to be sent to President Pranab Mukherjee by Monday morning. BJP leaders said Modi will merge some ministries for effective governance.

The swearing-in ceremony, to be attended by heads of governments of Saarc countries, including Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, will take place at the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan at 6 pm.

While BJP president Rajnath Singh appears set to be the next home minister, Sushma Swaraj is likely to get the defence portfolio. Arun Jaitley is expected to handle the portfolios of finance, external trade and commerce as well as parliamentary affairs.

Nitin Gadkari is likely to get an omnibus ministry of transport, which will include roadways, waterways and railways.

If Modi decides to include any leader above 70 years, senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi is likely to be inducted as Human Resources Development Minister, a post he held in the Vajpayee government between 1998 and 2004.

Former deputy speaker of Lok Sabha Karia Munda and ex-Union minister and eight-time MP Sumitra Mahajan were stated to be front-runners for the Speaker’s post. BJP patriarch L K Advani, who had evinced interest in the post, will continue as the NDA chairman, with a Cabinet-minister status.

Others likely to make it to Modi’s list include Venkaiah Naidu, Gopinath Munde, Shanta Kumar, Kalraj Mishra, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Santosh Gangwar, Uma Bharti, Maneka Gandhi, Thawarchand Gehlot, Ananth Kumar and Sadananda Gowda.

Gen (retd) V K Singh, Piyush Goel, Smriti Irani, Anurag Thakur, Hansraj Ahir, Pon Radhakrishnan, Rajbir Singh and Narendra Singh Tomar may become junior ministers.

The names from the allies camp included Anant Geethe (Shiv Sena), Ashok Gajapathi Raju (TDP) and Ram Vilas Paswan (LJP).

The Akali Dal has not evinced interest in joining the government following its setback in Punjab. Anupriya Patel of the Apna Dal, a key NDA ally in Uttar Pradesh and Upendra Kushwaha of the Lok Samata Party were likely to be accommodated as MoS.

Meanwhile, talks are on over Rajnath Singh’s replacement in the party, with general secretary and former Himachal Pradesh minister J P Nadda among the contenders for the post. The other name was Om Prakash Mathur.

TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu, who met Modi on Sunday, told the media later, “I did not ask for any representation. The TDP is an ally of the NDA, power is not important, national development is important. Under his (Modi's) leadership, we want a solution to problems (of Seemandhra and Telangana).”

“The Shiv Sena is expecting good positions in the Central government. The BJP has assured us that would happen,” said senior Sena leader Subhash Desai. “We are confident. We are not at all bothered about Shiv Sena not getting a proper share,” he added.

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