STATE TIMES NEWS New Delhi: As the BJP swept to power with a spectacular performance for a second term, all eyes are now on government formation, amid speculation that several new faces including party president Amit Shah may be brought into the new cabinet. The council of ministers led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi tendered their resignation which was accepted by President Ram Nath Kovind, paving way for formation of new government. In first back-to-back majority in the Lok Sabha polls for a single party in over three decades, the Modi-led BJP won 303 seats out of 542 in the Lok Sabha polls, handing out a crushing defeat to the Congress and many other political opponents.
BJP sources indicated that swearing-in ceremony of the prime minister and his council of ministers could take place on May 30. The newly-elected MPs of the BJP-led NDA will meet on Saturday to formally elect Modi as their leader, setting in motion the process to form a new dispensation.
Many BJP leaders are of the view that Shah will join the Modi Cabinet and is expected to be given one of the four key ministries — Home, Finance, External Affairs and Defence.
In the run-up to the results, Shah had also sidestepped queries on him joining the government, saying it is the prerogative of the party and the Prime Minister.
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is expected to continue with a key role in the new government.
With Smriti Irani handing a shock defeat to Congress President Rahul Gandhi in Amethi, it is expected that the party may reward her with an important responsibility.
A number of senior faces from the outgoing cabinet including Rajnath Singh, Nitin Gadkari, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Piyush Goyal, Narendra Singh Tomar and Prakash Javadekar are set to figure in the new cabinet.
Among allies, Shiv Sena and JD(U) are likely to be given cabinet berths as both the parties have done exceedingly well, winning 18 and 16 respectively.
The party will reward new faces from states like West Bengal, Odisha and Telangana where it has made significant inroads.
“A number of young faces are likely to be inducted into the council of ministers as the BJP leadership has been working to groom a second line of leadership,” said a senior party leader.
With Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj having health issues, there have been talks whether they will be part of the new dispensation or not.
Jaitley, 66, has become “very weak” as his health has deteriorated over the past few weeks, sources said, adding that he has developed some throat condition as well that prevents him from speaking for long.
He was admitted to AIIMS earlier this week to undergo tests and treatment for an undisclosed illness and was discharged on Thursday but did not attend celebrations at BJP headquarters that evening after the party’s emphatic victory in the general elections.
Sources said Jaitley is not keen to take up a ministerial position in the new Modi government and may have conveyed his unwillingness to hold any position, such as a minister without portfolio, to Modi.
Doctors treating him have advised him to go to the UK or the US for treatment, they said.
Jaitley, whose health has been on a decline ever since he underwent a kidney transplant in May last year, will take a call in the next few days on the issue.
He has not attended office for the last three weeks and has rarely been seen in public. He, however, has been writing blogs and tweeted on Modi’s victory on Thursday.
He did not attend the Cabinet meeting called on Friday that recommended dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha. Sources said that he, however, met all the five secretaries in his ministries at his residence in what was described as a routine meeting.
A lawyer by profession, he has been the most important leader in Modi’s Cabinet and has often acted as the chief troubleshooter for the government.
While as a finance minister he steered through Parliament major economic legislations such as the nationwide Goods and Services Tax (GST) — which had languished for nearly two decades, he has also played key role in getting through several other laws such as the bill to ban the Muslim instant divorce practice known as ‘triple talaq’.
One of the most prolific voices in the Modi government and a key strategist, Jaitley did not contest the current Lok Sabha elections presumably because of his ill health.
He lost his first parliamentary election from Amritsar in 2014.
Suave and articulate, he has been the party’s spokesperson for many years. He entered Parliament at the age of 47 when he was nominated to the Rajya Sabha from Gujarat, where Modi was the chief minister.
Jaitley was a minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government and when Modi swept to power in 2014, he was made the finance minister and also handled briefly the additional charge of defence and information and broadcasting ministries.
He had undergone surgery in the US on January 22 for a reported soft tissue cancer in his left leg, an illness that deprived him from presenting the Modi government’s sixth and final budget of its current term. Railway and Coal Minister Piyush Goyal was the stand-in finance minister who presented the interim budget for 2019-20.
Jaitley had returned to India on February 9 after undergoing skin grafting. He is believed to had undergone some kind of a medical procedure again when he last month visited the US to attend the IMF-World Bank Group Spring Meetings.
Jaitley had undergone renal transplant on May 14 last year at AIIMS, New Delhi, with Goyal filling in for him at that time too. Jaitley, who had stopped attending office since early April 2018, was back in the finance ministry on August 23, 2018.
Earlier in September 2014, he underwent bariatric surgery to correct the weight he had gained because of a long-standing diabetic condition.
Jaitley, a Rajya Sabha member, had unsuccessfully contested the Lok Sabha election from Amritsar in 2014, while Swaraj, who had won from Vidisha in Madhya Pradesh, opted out from the electoral battle this time on health ground.
The two leaders have not commented on whether they would like to join the government or not.
The 17th Lok Sabha has to be constituted before June 3 and the process to form a new House will be initiated when the three Election Commissioners meet the President in the next few days to hand over the list of newly-elected members.
All the newly-elected BJP MPs are expected to meet on Saturday to elect Modi as their leader, following which he will meet the president to stake claim to form the new government, party sources said.
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© 2017 State Times Daily Newspaper