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Modi team talks enter last round

New Delhi, May 24: Narendra Modi is expected to hold a last round of consultations with BJP colleagues and leaders of the NDA allies tomorrow before he pencils his ministerial picks and allocates portfolios.

It is learnt that to balance the BJP’s demands and the allies’ “wish list”, Modi has evolved a formula that will allow a party with 12 MPs and more one cabinet minister and four junior ministers, and a party with less than six MPs just one minister.

Parties in the second category can decide if they want a junior minister with independent status or a junior minister working under a cabinet minister.

However, it is believed that the formula might be stretched a bit to indulge those allies who may be heading for an election soon like the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra.

The Sena has 18 MPs and could have one minister holding cabinet status and four junior ministers with or without independent charge.

The heads of the Akali Dal and the Telugu Desam Party, Parkash Singh Badal and N. Chandrababu Naidu, will meet Modi tomorrow. Naidu called on BJP president Rajnath Singh today.

Naidu, who has yet to be sworn in as Andhra chief minister, has reportedly told his associates that he will not make cabinet berths and portfolios a sticking point.

“He is going to head a new state that will face a serious revenue crunch and other shortfalls with the exit of Hyderabad. Therefore, he is looking more at getting big fiscal packages from the Centre to address immediate issues like helping waive loans of farmers and giving fresh loans to cope with the uncertainties that might arise once the south-west monsoon arrives,” a TDP source said.

BJP sources claimed that with the mandate limiting the bargaining scope that allies like the TDP had in the past, a more “serious” concern was the extent to which Modi could keep his own flock of 282 elected members “happy”. Especially the big contingents from the north and the west.

It seems Modi made it clear that he would like to cap his council of ministers at 40, half the mandated size of 81. Within this ceiling, he would have to juggle the requirements of caste, region, gender etc that, sources said, could be dictated by the “political significance” of the mandate that Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan gave the BJP.

Apart from Maharashtra, Haryana goes to polls while Jharkhand and Uttarakhand might be in for a choppy spell. These three states too rewarded the BJP handsomely in the Lok Sabha polls.

It is learnt that the creamy layer of ministries --- home, defence, finance and external affairs --- have “more or less” been farmed out.

Arun Jaitley, who was closely involved in the consultations Modi has had along with Rajnath and Nitin Gadkari, might get finance. Jaitley will continue to be in the Rajya Sabha where, sources said, his floor management skills and his cross-party associations, which include the Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Party and the AIADMK, might come in handy when Parliament is in session.

The BJP is in a minority in the upper House. It will need the backing of several Opposition parties to transact its legislative agenda.

Sources said Rajnath was sounded out on home but would have to take a call on whether he wished to continue to helm the BJP or join Modi’s government.

Gadkari may make the cut to the top possibly with defence.

Discussions are still on whether Arun Shourie, resented by sections of the BJP for his diatribes against certain leaders, could be inducted as external affairs minister with additional charge of commerce in keeping with Modi’s view that foreign policy should be increasingly oriented towards business and trade.

If Rajnath bites the ministry bait, general secretary J.P. Nadda, who is close to Gadkari and favoured by the RSS, might take over the BJP.