India elections 2014: Who will be key people in a Modi-led government?
Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi, prime ministerial candidate for India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Gujarat's chief minister, seeks blessing from Lal Krishna Advani (L), a leader of BJP as their party's president Rajnath Singh (C) looks on during their national council meeting at Ramlila ground in New Delhi January 19, 2014. Reuters

BJP's, and by extension Narendra Modi's, stronger-than-expected performance in India's national elections has given the would-be prime minister greater leeway as he sits down to sketch the shape of the cabinet.

Modi had wrested control of the party from the old guard led by former deputy prime minister -- and the eternal prime minister-in-waiting – LK Advani. But powerful members of this faction such as Murali Manohar Joshi and Sushma Swaraj have been lobbying for key positions in the next government.

The equations may change as Modi has now positioned himself as the leader who pulled off a stunning show, decimating the rival Congress party.

Here's a look at the key people who will be part of a Modi-led government.


The front-runner for the position is Arun Jaitley, party stalwart and eminent lawyer. Jaitley belongs to Modi's inner circle and is currently the leader of the opposition in the upper house of parliament.

Jaitley contested from the Amritsar seat in Punjab, and some exit polls had predicted he would lose there. However, the consensus has been that even if he were to lose the election he would still be inducted into the cabinet.

Ever since the big churn in the BJP began with the new power centre pushing the old guard led by former deputy prime minister LK Advani, Jaitley had clearly stood behind Modi.

In a campaign rally for Jaitley, the would-be prime minster had dropped hints that a major cabinet position was waiting for the suave, new-age leader who comes across as a sharp and articulate intellectual.

In a surprise move, Modi could also favour an internationally renewed economist for the finance minister's role.

Also in the reckoning is Arun Shourie, who steered the drive to sell government stake in a multitude of public sector undertakings during the former BJP government led by AB Vajpayee. If he is not picked as finance minister, he is a strong contender to head the commerce ministry.

The names of former finance minister Yashwant Sinha and political maverick Subramanian Swamy are also being bandied about for a possible role in the finance ministry.


It's not clear if the home portfolio would be assigned to anyone as Modi might want to keep it to himself. As chief minister of Gujarat, Modi was renowned to keep key roles in the cabinet to himself. If Modi does entrust the sensitive home portfolio to anyone at all it could be Rajnath Singh, the current party chief.

Singh is a Modi loyalist and was one of the early cheerleaders of the rising star in the party. His support to Modi was instrumental in helping him grab the campaign leadership from Advani who genuinely thought this was his chance to become the prime minister.

Singh would be the clear number two in the government if he chooses to join the cabinet.

Murali Manohar Joshi, a seasoned leader from the old guard and a former party president, has reportedly been lobbying for the home portfolio. But his chances are not as strong as Modi has shown ruthless single-mindedness in ushering in new leadership.

Chief minister of Goa state, Manohar Parrikar, is also a likely candidate for the home ministry. He belongs to the core group of Modi loyalists.


The external affairs portfolio could go to Sushma Swaraj, an Advani loyalist who has been sulking ever since Modi's ascension to the top. Swaraj, the leader of the opposition in the lower house, clearly had ambitions and pitched herself against Modi.

It's also not clear if she would be willing to accept the foreign portfolio. The Advani camp could pitch in for a last-ditch fight for honour and get her placed as the home minister or defence minister.

Ravi Shankar Prasad, party spokesman is another leader vying for the foreign minister's role. If Jaitley doesn't take up the finance ministry, he could be named the external affairs minister.


Rajnath Singh and Sushma Swaraj are the front-runners for the defence portfolio. If Modi decides not to worsen the problem of discontents he could accommodate Swaraj as the defence minister and also make her a member of the powerful Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS).

Former army chief VK Singh's name has been bandied about as a possible defence minister, but his chances are low and even if he makes it to the ministry it would be as a junior minister.

National security advisor

The position of the National Security Advisor appears to be a toss-to between security and foreign policy experts Ajit Doval and Satish Chandra.

Chandra was the deputy to Brajesh Mishra, who was National Security Advisor under Vajpayee during 1999-2004. Doval is a former director of the Intelligence Bureau, India's internal intelligence agency.

Economic Advisor

Former chief economist at the Asian Development Bank and Columbia University professor Arvind Panagariya is a strong candidate for the role of the chief economic adviser to the prime minister. A free-market thinker and pro-growth strategist, Panagariya looks ideal for pushing Modi's vaunted reform and growth oriented economic agenda.

Modi promised to replicate the economic success of Gujarat if he were handed the reins of the country. Panagariya had earlier commended Modi's economic policies in Gujarat.

Eminent economist Jagadish Bhagwati, who is termed "the most famous living economist who has not won a Nobel prize," has endorsed Modi's growth oriented economic policy and even expressed his willingness to offer his services in an advisory role in the new government.

Party president

There is a very high possibility that current party president Rajnath Singh could join the cabinet and become the number two in the government. In such a situation, Nitin Gadkari, former president of the party and an RSS insider, could be appointed as party chief. There is talk about hawkish Modi confidante and campaign strategy architect Amit Shah being anointed the party chief, a move that will make sure Modi remains the boss both in the party and the government.

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