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Cabinet Formation: 15 Ministerial Berths for NDA Members Likely, Swearing-in with Modi on Sunday

Cabinet Formation: 15 Ministerial Berths for NDA Members Likely, Swearing-in with Modi on Sunday

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, June 8: Nearly 12 to 15 spots in the Union Council of Ministers could go to NDA allies as the BJP top brass on Saturday continued to hold discussions with alliance partners ahead of the swearing-in of the Council of Ministers along with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday.

Senior BJP leaders Amit Shah and Rajnath Singh and party president JP Nadda were engaged in discussions with allies at the latter’s residence since Friday evening. As per sources, the meetings were taking place one-on-one.

Sources in the NDA said Chandrababu Naidu’s TDP is likely to get four portfolios in the new cabinet while the JDU may get two berths. Three of the four TDP leaders who may find a place in PM Modi’s new cabinet are likely to be Ram Mohan Naidu, Harish Balayogi and Daggumalla Prasad.

Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) has proposed the name of two senior leaders – Lalan Singh and Ram Nath Thakur. Lalan Singh was elected to the Lok Sabha from Bihar’s Munger, while Ram Nath Thakur is a Rajya Sabha MP. Mr Thakur is the son of Bharat Ratna recipient Karpoori Thakur.

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) at its meeting on Friday had decided to finalise the cabinet berths ahead of the government’s swearing-in. According to sources, TDP had sought four portfolios and the post of the parliamentary speaker after winning 16 Lok Sabha seats in Andhra Pradesh. JD(U) had sought at least three posts including two cabinet berths after winning 12 seats.

Mr Kumar and Mr Naidu emerged as kingmakers after the BJP secured only 240 seats, falling short of the 272 needed for a majority government. The NDA clinched 293 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha, marking a significant victory and Mr Modi will take oath for a third consecutive term on Sunday.

The coalition negotiations are a throwback to an era before 2014 – when PM Modi swept to power with an outright BJP majority – in which alliance partners haggled for positions and benefits. Buzz of a sensational Nitish Kumar – INDIA bloc reunion surfaced Tuesday evening after it became clear the BJP would not win 272 seats on its own. Senior INDIA leaders, including West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, suggested an olive branch might be extended to Nitish Kumar.

On Thursday sources close to Nitish Kumar ruled out this possibility, but left a sting in the tail; with both sides locked in talks over ministerial berth allocation, the BJP brass was reportedly told to remember Nitish Kumar had walked out of the INDIA bloc over delays in naming him as its Convenor. The JD(U) leaders have also reputedly kept reminding the BJP leadership that the INDIA bloc has offered the Prime Minister’s post to Mr Nitish Kumar. The hint apparently has not lost on the BJP leadership amidst the party’s desire not to part with key portfolios like Home, External Affairs, Defence, and Finance along with some other key ministries like Railways, Road Transport, Law, Information Technology and Education.

The one-on-one meetings beginning on Friday evening was reportedly held with NCP’s Ajit Pawar, Praful Patel and Sameer Bhujbal, followed by RLD chief Jayant Choudhary. One-to-one meetings with leaders of JDS, TDP JDU, NCP, SS, LJP and NCP were done on Friday by a group of senior BJP leaders JP Nadda, Amit Shah and Rajnath Singh. The names of TDP’s Rammohan Naidu, LJP’s Jayant Chaudhary, JDU’s Lallan Singh, JDS’ Kumaraswamy and Apna Dal’s Anupriya Patel are doing the rounds as Ministers from the ally’s camp.

Sources have said that the TDP and JDU are more interested in funds for their states (Andhra Pradesh and Bihar respectively) and that financial package is their priority.

If not four, the TDP, which is the largest constituency in the NDA with 16 MPs, could get at least three berths in the Council of Ministers, including a cabinet post and two Ministers of State. In 2018, before the TDP had quit the National Democratic Alliance, it had a cabinet minister and a Minister of State in the Narendra Modi government. The TDP then too had 16 MPs, but its importance is far greater this time.

The JD-U similarly could be in the running for three berths, a full cabinet minister position and two Ministers of State. The JD-U had incidentally sought four berths in 2019 when it had won 16 seats in the Lok Sabha elections, but the BJP had not relented and JD-U stayed out of the cabinet. This time, the JD-U has won 12 seats, but like the TDP, it has far more importance this time. The JD-U is said to be eying the coveted Railways Ministry, Agriculture and Rural Development. Nitish Kumar has earlier served as the Union Railways Minister while RCP Singh of the JD-U has served as Minister of Steel.

The Shiv Sena of Eknath Shinde, with seven seats, could also get a cabinet post and possibly a Minister of State berth, while the same could be offered to Chirag Paswan’s LJP which has secured a five-on-five verdict in Bihar. The JD-S and Jayant Chaudhary’s RLD could be offered either a full cabinet minister-ship each or a Minister of State with Independent Charge. The Apna Dal of Anupriya Patel, Jana Sena of Pawan Kalyan and HAM of Jitin Ram Manjhi, who have won a seat each, could also be in the running for a Minister of State post each.

There may be a Cabinet Minister or a MoS with Independent Charge post given to Ajit Pawar’s NCP, which has one seat in Maharashtra this time. The state will go to polls later this year.




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