President Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday invited the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Narendra Modi to be the next prime minister of the country. Modi is slated to take the oath of office, along with other Cabinet colleagues, at 6 pm on Monday, at the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan. For Modi and his party colleagues, the day was marked by several moments, speeches and acts that they are likely to recall for years — Modi’s dandavat pranaam at Parliament’s entrance and his emotional speech (Blog: If tears could talk) inside the Central Hall of the House, to name a few. But the day was also one of nervousness for some in BJP: They were still uncertain whether or not Modi would pick them for his Cabinet; if he would, would he offer them portfolios of their choice. Earlier in the day in Delhi, the BJP members of Parliament unanimously elected Modi as their leader, enabling him to stake a claim to form the next government. BJP’s legislature party met at noon inside the Central Hall of Parliament to elect Modi as their leader. Later, leaders of most of its 29 partners in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) joined them in the hall to approve Modi as the alliance’s leader. In his speech after being elected the leader, Modi made two points. First, that his government would always be on the side of the poor and the deprived, possibly to fend off the charge that it had always acted to ease the way for investors and corporate houses in Gujarat. He also declared an unambiguous and unquestioned fealty to the Constitution of India, suggesting issues like amendment of the status of Jammu & Kashmir and imposition of a uniform civil code — all part of the BJP manifesto — would be put aside for another day. Around 2:30 pm, BJP President Rajnath Singh led a delegation of 15 NDA leaders to meet the President and give him a list of MPs and parties supporting Modi. Singh said the list included 335 MPs of BJP and 10 of its allies. Raju Shetty of Maharashtra’s Swabhimani Paksha was to issue a letter of support later. President Mukherjee congratulated Modi for his victory while welcoming him at 3.15 pm. “As Shri Narendra Modi has been elected leader of the BJP Parliamentary Party and BJP has the majority support in the House of the People, the President appointed Shri Modi as the Prime Minister of India and requested him to advise the names of others to be appointed Members of the Council of Ministers,” the President’s House said in a statement. Until Monday evening, however, Manmohan Singh will continue as the caretaker prime minister. “The office of the new PM becomes functional only after he or she takes the oath,” said Subhash Kashyap, former secretary-general of the Lok Sabha. Elsewhere, political parties like the Samajwadi Party (SP) continued to feel the aftershocks of BJP’s massive victory. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav sacked over 30 of his ministers of state for his party’s weak performance in the polls. Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati dissolved all the Assembly-, district- and state-level panels of her party. While SP has won five seats, BSP has not won any seat in the elections. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal knocked at the doors of Delhi Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung to explore the possibility of forming a government in Delhi again. Kejriwal and his government had quit in February after 49 days in power. In Kolkata, in a move that will be unprecedented and contentious in the Lok Sabha’s history, if it becomes a reality, West Bengal Chief Minister reached out to her Tamil Nadu counterpart J Jayalalithaa to explore the possibility of their parties working as a bloc in the new lower House. The two are considering sharing the office of leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha. In the new Lok Sabha, Jayalalithaa’s All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) has 37 seats, while Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress has 34 seats.
Theirs are the third- and fourth-largest parties. The Congress, with 44 MPs, is the second-largest party but cannot stake claim to the post of the leader of Opposition as its total tally is short of the requisite representation in the House. According to rules, the leader of Opposition can only come from a party with more than 10 per cent of the strength of the House. Constitutional experts, however, are divided on whether the Trinamool Congress and AIADMK could be recognised as a single bloc and given the post. Former Speaker Somnath Chatterjee is of the view that the Speaker and the PM could, in consultation with each other, decide to accord the leader of such a bloc the status of the leader of Opposition. But Subhas Kashyap strongly disagrees. He tells Business Standard that any such move would be “highly irregular and improper”. “Mr Chatterjee is entitled to his view. But I disagree that two separate parties could form a bloc to secure a post,” Kashyap said. Kashyap added there wasn’t any leader of Opposition before 1969, as no party had the requisite 10 per cent members, but the Opposition did have prominent leaders. It was after a split in the Congress in 1969 that Ram Subhag Singh became the leader of Opposition for Congress (O) while Congress (R) was the ruling party. Similarly, the seventh (1980 to 1984) and the eighth (1984 to 89) Lok Sabhas did not have a recognised leader of Opposition. “The post shouldn’t go to anybody — neither to the Congress nor any other bloc. It would be cheating the public exchequer by bestowing perks and salaries of a Cabinet minister to somebody who, according to rules, doesn’t deserve to be the leader of Opposition,” Kashyap said. After Monday’s swearing-in ceremony, which over 3,000 people would be invited to attend, the Lok Sabha is slated to meet on June 2. Kamal Nath, a nine-time Congress MP from Chhindwara, is likely to be the pro-tem Speaker of the House and administer the oath of office to all MPs from June 2 to 9. The President’s address and the House’s ‘motion of thanks’ to it are likely to take place between June 2 and June 9, as also the House passing two ordinances — one related to the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) and the other on reservation for scheduled castes (SCs) and scheduled tribes (STs) in promotion at government entities. On Tuesday evening, Modi left Delhi for Gujarat, where he addressed a rally in his Assembly constituency, Maninagar. He will on Wednesday attend a special Gujarat Assembly session, where Anandiben Patel is likey to succeed him as the next Gujarat chief minister.