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Modi's new Cabinet: Shah may debut, Jaitley uncertain

May 24, 2019 04:40 IST

Will it be home or defence for Amit Shah?
Archis Mohan reports.

Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi with Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Anilchandra Shah, May 23, 2019.

The most anticipated induction into Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi's council of ministers is likely to be that of Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Anilchandra Shah when the new government takes oath next week.

Shah, who has debuted in the Lok Sabha, could join the Cabinet Committee on Security of the second Modi government, sources said.

Apart from the prime minister, the CCS comprises the top four of the government -- defence, home, external affairs and finance ministers.

In Gujarat, Shah had served as minister of state for home in the governments led by Modi. However, Rajnath Singh, who has retained his Lucknow seat, is one of the senior-most party leaders and served as home minister in the first Modi government.

It remains to be seen if Nirmala Sitharaman, who ably defended the government on the alleged irregularities in the Rafale fighter jet deal, would continue to remain defence minister, and whether Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, who has emerged the government's crisis manager, gets a more high-profile portfolio.

However, there are concerns over Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's health. He was discharged from New Delhi’s AIIMS on Thursday, May 23, and didn't attend the party's victory celebrations at the BJP headquarters in the evening.

Given the challenges on the economic front in the months to come, the concern in the party is if Jaitley’s health will permit him to join the ministry at the current juncture.

Jaitley, who has not been attending office for about three weeks now, has held the finance portfolio (briefly defence) for most of the duration of the Modi government.

He had undergone surgery in the US on January 22 for reported soft tissue cancer in his left leg, an illness that led to him not being able to present the Modi government's sixth and final Budget of its current term. Goyal had presented that Budget.

 

Sushma Swaraj, who has served as external affairs minister, decided not to contest the Lok Sabha polls. Currently, Swaraj is not a member of either of the two Houses. She recently attended the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meeting in Bishkek.

The PM is set to attend a key SCO meeting in Bishkek on June 14-15, where he would be meeting not just Chinese President Xi Jinping, but also Pakistan PM Imran Khan.

Textiles Minister Smriti Irani, who proved to be a giant-killer by defeating Congress Presi­dent Rahul Gandhi from the Am­ethi seat, could be elevated too.

The PM and Shah would also find it difficult to ignore the claims of such leaders as General V K Singh (retd), who has won his seat by a huge margin from Ghaziabad.

Senior leader Ravi Shankar Prasad has also debuted in the Lok Sabha after years spent in the Rajya Sabha.

The Modi government would need to factor in the upcoming assembly polls in Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand and give MPs from these states representation in the council of ministers.

Party sources said some ministries, particularly the agriculture ministry, could see a change. Some younger MPs could also be inducted in the council of ministers.

Archis Mohan
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