Heavyweights Likely to Keep Key Posts
Contrary to speculation that important portfolios could go to technocrats, the top jobs in the Cabinet will continue to remain the domain of political heavyweights, said one of the persons. Arun Jaitley, the leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, is in pole position to become finance minister even if he suffers an electoral reversal in Amritsar. Rajnath Singh, the party president, could be the next home or defence minister if he decides to give up the party role. The final choice would be left to Singh, said the people cited earlier. Sushma Swaraj, the leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, would also get one of the top four portfolios. Her choice of portfolio is linked to that of Singh, i.e.- if the BJP president opts for home then Swaraj could get defence. However, Nitin Gadkari, the former BJP president, is also a possible contender for defence, said one of the people. If Gadkari enters the picture, Swaraj could get external affairs. Ravi Shankar Prasad, a prominent lawyer and party spokesman, could get the law portfolio. Suresh Prabhu, a well-regarded Cabinet minister from the Vajpayee regime, could be the energy minister, heading a ministry that will subsume the existing petroleum & natural gas and power ministries as well as areas such as renewables.
Similarly, a newly created infrastructure portfolio would encompass the current ministries of surface transport and railways. E Sreedharan, best known for building the Delhi Metro and before that the Konkan Railway, may be tapped for the position of minister of state to oversee the railway ministry. Amit Shah could be appointed minister of state in the PMO. However, if Rajnath Singh eventually opts to join the Cabinet, Shah could succeed him. Piyush Goyal could be a minister of state for finance. Prabhat Kumar, a former Cabinet secretary from the Vajpayee era, is one of the names being considered as principal secretary to the PM. The names of PK Mishra, a Gujarat cadre bureaucrat, and Ashok Chawla, former finance secretary and currently chairman of the Competition Commission of India, are also doing the rounds. For the Cabinet secretary, the senior-most civil servant of the 1976 batch, Sutanu Behuria, is believed to be in contention although the Times of India reported on Tuesday that Javed Usmani, the chief secretary of UP, is the frontrunner.
If Usmani, a 1978 batch topper, were to get the job, he would bypass eight civil servants senior to him. A Modi government would move to strengthen the Prime Minister’s Office and streamline Centrestate relations by reviving bodies such as the InterState Council and the National Development Council.
The Finance Commission, which a Modi-led administration is likely to regard as the lynchpin of Centre-state relations, could see a change at the top. The current chairman, former RBI governor YV Reddy, is based in Hyderabad and a Modi government would prefer a Delhibased head, said one of the people quoted earlier.
Arvind Panagariya, a well-known economist, could become chairman of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council.
The current Cabinet has 71 members and the BJP Cabinet will be considerable smaller, one of the people cited earlier said. Over the course of a Modi regime, reforms would speed up with ministries such as commerce and even industry disappearing.
Arvind Panagariya, a well-known economist, could become chairman of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council