NEW DELHI: Amid intense speculation on the position of Arun Jaitley in the Union Cabinet in view of his ill health, the outgoing finance minister on Wednesday wrote to Prime Minister-elect Narendra Modi saying he wanted to opt out. Later in the day, Modi called on him, triggering a fresh buzz on his offering Jaitley a ministerial berth without portfolio.
“...I would in future, for some time, like to keep away from any responsibility. This will enable me to concentrate on my health and treatment,” Jaitely’s letter read.
While the names of outside experts, including those of former RBI Governor Bimal Jalan and NITI Aayog’s first vice-chairman Arvind Panagariya, figured in the wild guesses of a few, most BJP leaders maintained that the finance portfolio ought to be held by a political person for wider people connect.
With indications that Modi would leave three key ministers — Sushma Swaraj, Rajnath Singh and Nitin Gadkari — undisturbed, sources indicated that Shah may get finance.
For the position of Lok Sabha Speaker, the names of Santosh Gangwar, S S Ahluwalia, Thawar Chand Gehlot and Narendra Singh Tomar are doing the rounds.
Since the past four days, Shah has held a number of parleys with Modi on government formation.
Shah met Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in the day amidst indications that the JD(U) would be joining the council of ministers with at least three berths, including one of Cabinet rank.
The Lok Jan Shakti Party (LJP) and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) made it clear that Ram Vilas Paswan and Harsimrat Kaur would be their respective nominees in the Cabinet.
The Shiv Sena and AIADMK are likely to bag three and two berths, respectively, sources said.
JD(U)’s Munger MP Rajiv Ranjan Singh, who was a minister in Bihar but resigned a couple of days ago, and Rajya Sabha member T C P Singh, considered close to Nitish, are on the list of probables.
Another point of interest will be the portfolios of giantkillers like Smriti Irani, who trounced Congress president Rahul Gandhi in Amethi, and K P Yadav, who defeated Congress general secretary Jyotiraditya Scindia in Guna.
The BJP’s West Bengal push and its “Mission South” are also likely to be reflected in the new government, with Kerala hoping to get three berths.
Sena may get three berths
Within Shiv Sena, Rajya Sabha MP Anil Desai and Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg MP Vinayak Raut are the frontrunners. The names of Pratamsinh Jadhav and Bhavna Gavli, too, are doing the rounds.