Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Arun Jaitley continues to be the key contender to take over as the new finance minister despite losing the Lok Sabha election from Amritsar. The lawyer-turned politician is already a member of the upper house of the parliament and is said to be one of the close confidantes of Narendra Modi, who is set to become the next prime minister of India.
Modi is said to be keen to give priority to Jaitley over the other candidates like former journalist and author Arun Shourie as also former central bank governor Bimal Jalan, media reports suggest.
Jaitley was said to be well on his way to head the finance ministry, one of the key portfolios. However, his defeat in the elections has complicated the scenario. But he is already a member of Rajya Sabha which makes him eligible for the cabinet post.
Prior to joining the BJP, Jaitley was a leader of the youth wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu nationalist group and seen as the BJP’s ideological parent.
As Lok Sabha elections 2014 wound down on Friday, the Narendra Modi-led NDA won 336 seats of total 543 Lok Sabha seats, while BJP crossed the 272 mark comfortably on its own, without allies, winning 282 seats.
Modi held a meeting with BJP leaders on Sunday in the national capital to discuss the formation of the new Cabinet. The process that leads to Modi assuming the responsibility of next prime minister will kick off on Tuesday which will see BJP MPs electing Modi as the next premier.
After that, the political allies who are part of BJP led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) will hold a meeting and following this, a group of NDA leaders led by Modi, LK Advani and Rajnath Singh will meet President Pranab Mukherjee and stake claim on the new government.
BJP president Rajnath Singh besides other senior party leaders Sushma Swaraj, Ravi Shankar Prasad and Murli Manohar Joshi are also expected to be in the cabinet.
Although BJP’s win has depreciated the bargaining chips of its allies for key ministerial portfolios, Modi is expected to include a few allies in the key portfolios for support in the Rajya Sabha where BJP does not have majority on its own.
Key policies needs to be passed by both houses of the Parliament which explains why BJP wants to keep other parties such as AIADMK in good humour. Tamil Nadu’s AIADMK, which emerged as the third-largest party in the elections, had chosen not to formally ally with BJP in the run up to the polls.
Political commentators had previously speculated AIADMK chief J Jayalalitha to be a key contender for the post of PM as a consensus candidate if BJP did not gain majority. However, the strong performance of the party in the just concluded elections under what was termed as a Modi wave, swept away any dissenting thoughts on Narendra Modi’s leadership.
(Edited by Joby Puthuparampil Johnson)