With the BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi keeping all cards close to his chest on ministry formation if the NDA comes to power, party leaders Thursday publicly said there was only media speculation on the issue. Yet names of possible cabinet ministers kept doing the rounds in the expectation of a Modi government by next week if the exit poll predictions get confirmed Friday.
BJP sources said they were not certain about who and how many leaders will be part of the Modi government if the NDA comes to power. The names doing the rounds in the BJP's inside circles include top leaders like Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Shahnawaz Hussain, Rajiv Pratap Rudy, B.C. Khanduri, B.S. Yeddyurappa, Ananth Kumar, Kalraj Misra and Shanta Kumar.
Senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi, who has been opposing Modi within the party forum and had to make way for Modi for the Varanasi seat, could be accommodated as deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, a source privy to some of the thinking, said.
A senior party leader told IANS: "Modi ji's cabinet is difficult to predict. Things will be as never before." Top party sources said that BJP candidate for the Amethi Lok Sabha seat, Smriti Irani, could be inducted as a minister even if she loses to Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi. There is a strong feeling that senior leader Arun Jaitley, who is considered close to Modi and has been one of the earliest champions of his prime ministership, could get the finance ministry, considering the importance Modi intends to give to fixing the economy.
Other names being speculated about were that of leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha Sushma Swaraj for the external affairs ministry and BJP president Rajnath Singh for defence. Regarding the crucial home ministry, it is being said that Modi would like to keep the portfolio himself. Amit Shah could join the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and control the home ministry from there, though everything remains in the realm of party speculation as Modi is unlikely to have shared his thinking with many people other than a few people close to him like Jaitley and Rajnath Singh.
"Modi will have special focus on infrastructure ministries and those are likely to go to his confidantes," a BJP leader said. However, a party leader from Gujarat said there may be more technocrats involved in decision making in the Modi government. "One more thing - there may be fewer ministries and Modi will keep a tight control on them," the Gujarat leader who knows Modi's mind well, said. Everyone spoke only on the condition that their names not be disclosed.
Officially, the decisions on ministry formation will be taken by the BJP parliamentary board on May 17 if the party is set to form the government. Where Modi would perhaps face some tricky situations is in accommodating senior leaders Sushma Swaraj, Joshi and even LK Advani. All three were implacably opposed to Modi being named prime ministerial candidate but had to given in to party pressure. "Modi has more enemies within the BJP than outside," a senior BJP leader quipped to IANS, even as he said that few people in the party had any clue about who will be in or out in the new government.