In a statement and tweets issued late on Sunday night, on the eve of his swearing-in, prime minister-designate Narendra Modi indicated “unprecedented” changes in ministry formation, with “the top layers downsized”.
“Focus is on convergence in the activities of various ministries where one Cabinet minister will be heading a cluster of ministries working in complementary sectors,” the statement said, reasoning that it was necessary for Modi’s dictum of ‘Minimum Government and Maximum Governance’.
“Mr Modi is eventually aiming at Smart Governance where the top layers of government will be downsized and there would be expansion at the grass-root level,” said the statement issued from Gujarat Bhawan, also providing an official account of deliberations over the last few days on government formation.
Though the statement did not spell out the ministries that would be clubbed together, there were indications of Overseas Affairs and Foreign Trade coming under External Affairs; Environment, Forest and Earth Sciences and Water Resources coming together; Energy bringing in Power, Petroleum and Unconventional Energy; Agriculture covering Food Processing and Food and Public Distribution; and Transport clubbing Road Transport, Highways and Shipping, among others.
While the clubbing of ministries may dash the hopes of many, some leaders that looked set to join the Modi Cabinet on Monday were BJP president Rajnath Singh, and senior leaders Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj and Nitin Gadkari.
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While party sources remained tightlipped on Rajnath’s portfolio, the BJP president is likely to get Home Affairs, bringing him into the powerful Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS). There may be no truncation of the Home Affairs Ministry, as had earlier been speculated would happen.
Sources also suggested that while the party believes in the “one man one post” principle, Rajnath will continue to be the BJP chief for some time till the name of his replacement is finalised.
While L K Advani is certain to remain out of the government, there are indications that another party elder, Murli Manohar Joshi, may not find place in the Modi Cabinet either. Sources said Joshi could be made the Lok Sabha Speaker, though senior party MPs Kariya Munda and Sumitra Mahajan are also contenders for the post.
Former Union minister Arun Shourie may get a prominent ministry, while senior party leader Ravi Shankar Prasad could find a place in the government too.
Jaitley and Amit Shah met both senior RSS functionary Suresh Soni and Modi separately on Sunday to finetune the list of ministers.
TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu, an NDA partner, called on Modi at Gujarat Bhawan. TDP sources suggested that party MP from Vizianagaram (Andhra Pradesh) Ashok Gajapati Raju would be sworn in as a Cabinet minister.
The Maharashtra BJP has urged Modi to incorporate their alliance partners from the state into the Council of Ministers given the Assembly elections in six months. Shiv Sena leader Anant Geete’s name is gaining ground in this regard.
The other alliance partners in contention are Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan and Rashtriya Lok Samata Party leader Upendra Kushwaha.
The statement from Gujarat Bhawan said Modi was aware of the “high expectations” of the people. “For whole four days, he was busy with formation of the ministry and discussing various alternatives to (ensure) effective governance, convergence and coordination between various ministries,” it said.
“Earlier, there was political instability and multi-party governments and ministry formation was almost done in a bifurcated manner,” the statement said, adding that Modi had tried in a rational manner to club like-minded departments in such a way so as to “convert the entity of the assembled ministry to an organic entity”.