No lobbying for ministerial berths, a lean council of ministers, and no outsiders in the Cabinet, not even technocrats—this has been the message from prime minister-elect Narendra Modi and his close advisors to all knocking on his doors at Gujarat Bhavan. Those giving interviews on news channels about how the Modi government could function have shared this view.
Modi and his team have sent out a message that some technocrats in the running might have “shot themselves in the foot” by being too vocal about their views on the shape of the next government, as well as on which key appointees during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government could be given extensions.
The understanding within team Modi is interests with a footprint in the outgoing UPA government are trying to find a toehold in the next government by putting forth the case for technocrats as ministers of state. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), however, is unwilling to accommodate these interests, especially as it has secured a majority on its own. Efforts to tout technocrats as handling key ministerial portfolios have been deeply resented.
A BJP senior privy to the process of Cabinet formation told Business Standard there wasn’t an iota of truth to the portfolios being discussed in the media. “It is pure speculation. Modiji has been too busy with other engagements to devote much time to it. The real brainstorming will start from tonight, when he lands in Delhi,” the leader said.
He added Modi wasn’t somebody to be swayed by such lobbying. In fact, he viewed it negatively, the leader added. Modi hasn’t taken kindly to the incessant lobbying by MPs and a few technocrats for themselves, as well as for key appointees during the previous government such the appointment of Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan.
The BJP senior, however, issued a caveat on Rajan. “I am not saying Rajan will stay or go. That is for the new government to decide, based on merit. I am sure Modiji will approach the issue with an open mind. But those who think they can influence Modiji by coming on TV don’t know him enough,” the leader said.
The BJP has compiled a folder on all that has been published and shown on TV news channels through the last week about the possible shape of the Modi government.
This is to be handed over to Modi on his arrival here from Ahmedabad.
Sources said some who had tried to meet Modi at Gujarat Bhavan had been turned away. These included a recently elected MP from Uttar Pradesh with an unsavoury criminal record. The BJP leader quoted earlier said Modi was someone who would approach the issue of Cabinet formation without “prejudice”, adding he would “not go by what has appeared in the media”.
“The day the BJP parliamentary party him its leader, Modiji had clearly said all MPs should work for their constituencies, instead of lobbying for ministerial berths in Delhi,” the leader said.