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If Gujarat is yardstick, expect a lean line-up
Allies test for cabinet model

New Delhi, May 19: If the Gujarat “model” is anything to go by, Narendra Modi could have a slim and trim ministerial council. At least to begin with.

Sources in the BJP said Modi placed a bigger premium on “performance and results” and expected deadlines to be respected, so an “unwieldy” council could impair the “efficiency levels” he would like to maintain.

Modi, they added, also does not subscribe to the politics of patronage that parties usually pursue by bestowing positions of power on MPs and MLAs to keep their allegiance.

The Prime Minister-designate is scheduled to meet President Pranab Mukherjee tomorrow to stake claim to form the government.

The sources, however, said although Modi’s council in Gujarat has just 17 members, replicating the state’s “ministerial model” at the Centre would be “difficult”. While selecting ministers, Modi, they pointed out, would have to “juggle” factors like regional, caste and gender representation, apart from taking into account merit. “He cannot ignore representatives from new regions where the BJP has made inroads like Bengal and Tamil Nadu,” a source said.

Modi also has to accommodate allies like the Shiv Sena and the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), a source admitted. The Sena comes with a block of 18 MPs and party sources said it expected “at least” three cabinet berths.

The Telugu Desam Party has 16 MPs. Desam chief N. Chandrababu Naidu has not yet said if he would be part of the NDA government but if he decides to, BJP sources said, he too would want two or three ministerial posts. Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP has brought six MPs.

TIME TO SEE IF MODI WILL LOOK A GIFT LION IN THE MOUTH

In the middle of picking his team to run the country, another crucial decision awaits Narendra Modi: what to do with the gifts that his fan club is lining up. Modi needs to tread with caution to ensure that he does not offend the well-meaning admirers. A sample of what lies ahead:

Sculptors Mayur Wakani (left) and Anand Tike give the final touches to a life-size statue of Modi holding a lotus and standing alongside a lion in Ahmedabad. The sculptors say that Modi is trying to put behind India’s “dark days”. Hence they have selected the colour white as a symbol of brightness — and plan to gift the statue to Modi in the coming days.
In Mumbai, Sai Suman is giving finishing touches to the outfit she wants Modi to wear at his swearing-in. “I have made one Jodhpuri suit for Modi, which has two sleeveless jackets. It also has handcrafted buttons with the BJP’s logo on it,” Suman told PTI. “I have been noticing Modiji since a very long time. I have keenly noticed the different colours and styles that he uses in his clothes. I hope that I get to gift him these clothes before the ceremony.” The tape in the picture on the left shows 45-plus inches, not the “chhappan inch ki chhatti (56-inch chest)” made famous by Modi. But blame it on the mannequin, not Modi. (AFP and PTI pictures)

Sources privy to discussions that took place on Sunday and today said Modi could swear in a council of 20 to 25 ministers when he takes the oath of office later this week. The number is well below the cap stipulated by the Constitution.

In 2003, the Constitution had been amended to limit the total number of ministers, including the Prime Minister, to 15 per cent of the strength of the House of the People (the Lok Sabha). The same change, enshrined in the Constitution (Ninety-First Amendment) Act, applied to states as well.

Modi’s council of ministers in Gujarat has 17 members, 10 fewer than the constitutionally sanctioned limit for a House of 182 MLAs.

At the Centre, there can be a maximum of 82 ministers, or 15 per cent of the 545 members, including two nominated ones, in the lower House.

Under Manmohan Singh, the UPA government was full up from the beginning. When Singh took oath in May 2009 for the second time, he swore in 20 ministers and, a week later, another 59, leaving scope for just three more inductions.

What could alter Modi’s reported wish to have a small cabinet is the demand from the NDA allies, particularly the Sena and the LJP. Some clarity on the berth-share ratio between the BJP and its allies, past and present, could emerge tomorrow when the NDA parliamentary party meets to endorse Modi’s election as Prime Minister after BJP MPs declare him their leader at a separate event.

Sena president Uddhav Thackeray will be in Delhi to discuss with Modi, BJP president Rajnath Singh and Arun Jaitley the expectations he has for his newly elected MPs. Desam chief Naidu is also expected to reach the capital on Tuesday.

Naidu’s Andhra rival, YSR Congress chief Jaganmohan Reddy, called on Modi today.

Within the BJP, it emerges that Rajnath, Sushma Swaraj and Nitin Gadkari could find a place, but no one could say for sure where they would be positioned. The word from Rajnath’s quarter, sent to sections of the media, was he would get the home ministry in sync with his position as BJP president. “Whether Modiji is thinking along these lines, we don’t know. There is a gap between what an aspirant wants and what the PM-designate thinks he deserves,” a source said.

Gadkari, whose CV mentions the Bombay-Pune expressway he constructed in “record time” when he was Maharashtra’s public works minister, has indicated he would like an infrastructure ministry like the railways or surface transport. “Nitinji has told the relevant persons that he does not wish to return as the party president but wants to be used in infrastructure-building,” a source close to him said.

Sushma, who was a bit edgy because of her patchy equations with Modi, called on the RSS on Sunday. Today, she met Rajnath. Armed with an assurance of an induction, she went to meet Modi.

Although Gujarat Bhavan continued to be Delhi’s political hub because of Modi, there were other hot spots too: while several new MPs visited the RSS headquarters in north-west Delhi, Rajnath, Jaitley and Modi’s right-hand man Amit Shah huddled for hours at the BJP chief’s Ashoka Road home.

The third hot spot was general secretary (organisation) Ramlal’s room at 9, Ashoka Road, abutting the BJP’s central office. Ramlal, who works as the main conduit between the BJP and the RSS and normally maintains a low profile, was called on by almost everyone who went to the Sangh complex.

Anupriya Patel of the Apna Dal, a BJP ally, also met Ramlal. She is keen on a social sector ministry.