The Modi Cabinet Will Keep Everyone Guessing

With the election din over, the focus has shifted to the composition of the Modi cabinet & as to who will make the cut or be left out. Even though the BJP has over 300 seats on its own, it will be a NDA government at the helm with the allies being a part of the government.

The allies have to be given a fair representation, particularly the Shiv Sena with 18 seats & the JD(U) with 16 seats. LJP’s Chirag Paswan has already indicated that he would like his father Ram Vilas Paswan to be a part of the government. The JD(U) which was not a part of the previous government could get 2 cabinet berths along with the Shiv Sena.

The Modi-Shah combine will have to do a balancing act so that none of the allies feel left out, apart from ensuring that their own party MPs are also given due representation. States like Rajasthan, MP & Gujarat where the BJP has repeated its 2014 performance are bound to get a fair share in Modi’s cabinet.

With Arun Jaitely opting out of the cabinet race due to health reasons, the Finance portfolio could go to Piyush Goel who held the portfolio in Jaitley’s absence & presented the last budget.

The other 3 big ministries, namely the Defence, External Affairs & Home could retain their previous incumbents namely Nirmala Sitharaman, Sushma Swaraj & Rajnath Singh respectively.

However, if Sushma were to opt out like Jaitely on health grounds, then there could be a slight rejig at the top where Amit Shah could himself step into the top four, with either Home or the Defence portfolio, leaving JP Nadda, a strong confidant of Shah, to man the party presidentship. However, Shah could also prefer to be the party president & keep calling the shots from outside as he has been doing successfully.

Rajnath Singh cannot be ignored in the top 4 & will have to be accommodated. In that case Nirmala Sitharaman could be eased out of the defence ministry & be given charge of the Commerce ministry.

Thus, we could have Rajnath & Amit Shah with the Defence & Home portfolio respectively & Piyush Goel taking charge of the crucial Finance ministry. Sushma could retain her Foreign Affairs post if she decides to continue. Giant slayer Smriti Irani is sure to get a vital portfolio in the cabinet. People like Gadkari & Suresh Prabhu are likely to retain their ministerial berths & their portfolios given their past track record.

Shiv Sena with its 18 MPs has emerged as the largest ally & is sure to get at least 2 cabinet berths if not more . The JD(U) is also strongly in the reckoning & will be expecting its due share being a major ally. It will be interesting to see if Harsimrat Badal will be a part of the Union cabinet given the poor showing of the Akalis in the elections, but respect for the senior Badal may save the day for Sukhbir’s wife.

The North-East will have to be given its due representation in addition to Kiran Rijuju & the BJPs good showing in the South would have to be taken into account when the ministries are finalised.

Modi could retain a majority of ministers who were a part of the previous government with a little bit of tinkering to accommodate victors from West Bengal, JD(U) & the Shiv Sena, thus maintaining a sense of continuity & efficiency given the fact that all ministers have been issued a 100 day action plan for their respective ministries.

The Modi-Shah combine was successful in breaching the citadel of Mamta in West Bengal & one can be sure that West Bengal will get its due representation in the government.

Modi could opt for a small ministry in the beginning with the key ministers taking oath along with the PM & leave room for expansion later, or he could go for a full fledged Cabinet giving representation to all regions so that the government encompasses all regions of the country.

We may speculate at length on the cabinet and who all will be a part of it, but the Modi-Shah duo could still spring a few surprises if not more.

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About the Author

Aman Gupta
Political Editor, Samast Bharat magazine