PRIME Minister-designate Narendra Modi, set to take oath for the third consecutive term Sunday as the head of an NDA government, is expected to hand over the list of Ministers in his council a few hours ahead of the swearing-in ceremony, scheduled for 7.15 pm at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

The BJP, 32 seats below the majority mark, will need the support of its allies, especially Telugu Desam Party and Janata Dal (United). Indeed, top BJP leaders, including Amit Shah and Rajnath Singh, along with party national president JP Nadda, have been in consultations with TDP’s Chandrababu Naidu, JD-U’s Nitish Kumar, and Shiv Sena’s Eknath Shinde, to work out how best to accommodate them. in the Council of Ministers.

The final decision is, of course, with the Prime Minister-designate but sources said the BJP is likely to retain the crucial portfolios of Home, Finance, Defense and External Affairs, all part of the Cabinet Committee on Security. Education and Culture, two ministries shaped by the party’s ideological imperatives, are also likely to stay with the BJP.

The overarching message, a senior BJP leader said, is to signal that although the BJP is 32 seats below the majority mark, this is not a “weak, defensive government.”

Naidu left for Andhra Pradesh Saturday because of the death of celebrated media baron Ramoji Rao and is expected to be back in New Delhi Sunday.

Festive offer

The view in the BJP is that on top of Naidu’s priority list is “adequate financial support” for Andhra Pradesh from the Center and that may also play a role in the Ministerial berths he gets. Sources said the TDP, the largest ally with 16 MPs, could get at least two positions in the Council of Ministers while Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena (which has two MPs) may be offered one.

Among names that are taking rounds as the possible ministers are Srikakulam MP K Ram Mohan Naidu; Guntur MP Chandra Shekhar Pemmasani; and Chittoor MP Daggumalla Prasada Rao.

The MPs, when contacted Saturday evening, said they have not yet received any “calls” regarding the Sunday ceremony.

The JD-U is also likely to have at least three of its leaders in the new government. LJP-Paswan’s Chirag Paswan is expected to be a Cabinet minister. “Bihar will have a good presence in the new government. Both allies performed impressively,” said a party leader. The JD-U won 12 seats and Paswan’s party bagged five. Bihar also goes to Assembly polls next year.

The BJP leadership is keen to see that Maharashtra, another poll-bound state where Assembly elections are due later this year, is also well-represented. The coalition has fared poorly in Maharashtra: Shiv Sena (Shinde) won seven seats, NCP (Ajit Pawar) got one while the BJP could manage only 12 from the total of 48 seats in the state.

However, with the Opposition INDIA bloc showing signs of a strong revival in the state, the BJP does not want its allies to be “politically vulnerable” ahead of the state polls, sources said.

Sources also said Amit Shah and Rajnath Singh are very likely to continue in “crucial” ministries and some new faces could be from former CMs Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Manohar Lal Khattar, Biplab Kumar Deb and Basavaraj Bommai.

In parallel, the BJP is also exploring ways to expand the NDA’s footprint and feelers are being sent to some Independents. Of the seven Independents, one MP, Vishal Prakashbabu Patil from Sangli, has joined the INDIA bloc. Party leaders are also in touch with the MPs from regional parties including the YSRCP, which has four MPs. Also, BJP and RSS leaders have discussed changes in the BJP leadership with incumbent party chief JP Nadda’s extended term ending this month.

The discussions about the succession plan within the party came up in the marathon meeting at PM Modi’s residence on Saturday, party sources said. The meeting was also attended by representatives from the RSS.

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