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Eyes set on berths in Modi cabinet

Patna, May 21: As preparations get under way for the swearing-in of India’s next Prime Minister, the guessing game has begun on how many MPs from Bihar would make it to the Narendra Modi ministry.

The expectations in Bihar BJP circles are high given the spectacular performance of the party and its allies. But, sources in the party acknowledged, given Modi’s penchant for keeping his ministries slim and also the buzz that “many things would change” the state’s leaders are keeping their fingers crossed.

“Only Modi knows who will be part of his council of ministers,” said a senior Bihar BJP leader, who spoke under cover of anonymity. “We would like a fair representation since Bihar, with 22 seats for the BJP and nine more for its allies, played a key role in the party’s sweeping victory along with Uttar Pradesh. But we also know that Modi’s style of functioning is very different.”

BJP leaders in the state say they are “pretty much sure” of the inclusion of Ravi Shankar Prasad, a Raja Sabha MP, in the Modi cabinet. Shahnawaz Hussain would have been a “certain inclusion” had he won the elections, but he lost and hence is believed to be out of the race, at least for now.

“We would hope for the inclusion of leaders such as Ravi Shankar Prasad, C.P. Thakur and Rajiv Pratap Rudy from the BJP and Ram Vilas Paswan and Upendra Kushwaha from the alliance quota,” a senior Bihar BJP leader, who is camping in Delhi, told The Telegraph by phone today. Prasad, Thakur, Rudy and Paswan had got ministerial berths in the Vaypayee government also. He, however, cautioned that it was still purely in the realm of speculation since even the “seniormost” BJP leaders are not sure of their role in government.

Another senior BJP leader, who too is camping in Delhi, said that if party patriarch L.K. Advani has his way, Patna Sahib MP Shatrughan Sinha too could get a cabinet berth. “We have reports that Advaniji has suggested just two names — Sushma Swaraj and Shatrughan — for a cabinet berth,” said the BJP leader.

However, others in the BJP are not so sure whether Sinha would be accommodated. “Modi, from what one hears, likes to keep his council trim. In that case, two Kayastha leaders from Bihar in his council is unlikely. Between Prasad and Shatrughan, he would prefer the former,” a BJP leader said.

The BJP leaders, however, again stressed that old equations like caste, regional balance of power etc are unlikely to work in the Modi regime. Hence, merit, more than any other factor, is likely to be the qualifying grade to get a ministerial berth. “Modi has the mandate to bring in new ideas. Be prepared to be surprised,” said a senior BJP leader.


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