NDA Meets To Decide On Cabinet, Nitish Kumar, C Naidu Seek Key Posts

NDA meet today: Nitish Kumar and Chandrababu Naidu are both seeking plum posts in the new cabinet.

New Delhi:

Newly elected MPs of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) are meeting at the new Parliament House for the first time after the BJP-led alliance won the Lok Sabha election. Chandrababu Naidu’s TDP and Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal United (JDU) have emerged as key parties after the BJP failed to cross the halfway mark needed to form a government in its own right.

Both the parties are seeking key portfolios in the new cabinet led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who will be sworn in for a record third term on Sunday. After the meeting today, PM Modi is expected to present to the President his claim to form a new coalition government, sources have said.

The NDA won 293 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha. The BJP, which enjoyed a handsome majority in the previous two terms, secured only 240 seats, way behind the 272 mark needed to form a government.

The four allies whose support is critical for the BJP to reach the majority are N Chandrababu Naidu’s TDP, which has won 16 seats, Nitish Kumar’s JDU (12), Eknath Shinde’s Shiv Sena (7) and Chirag Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party-Ram Vilas (5).

The motley assortment of regional parties are seeking to leverage their new influence to extract minister positions.

The Telugu Desam Party (TDP) wants five posts in the cabinet including parliamentary speaker, according to sources.

Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) is also keen on getting two major portfolios – railways and rural development, sources have said.

N Chandrababu Naidu and Nitish Kumar, both coalition-era veterans, conducted discussions with their party leaders ahead of the NDA meeting today.

The BJP, however, is not keen on accommodating allies in four key ministries that come under the Cabinet Committee on Security — defence, finance, home affairs, and external affairs.

The BJP will also not want to let go of portfolios that are critical to its infrastructure push, such as road transport and highways, or its welfare agenda, sources have said.

The coalition negotiations are a throwback to an era before 2014 – when PM Modi swept to power with an outright BJP majority – in which alliance partners haggled for positions and benefits.

PM Modi will chair the NDA meeting today where he will be formally elected as the leader of the alliance. He is scheduled to meet President Droupadi Murmu later on Friday to stake his claim to form a government.

He will take oath in a grand ceremony on Sunday evening. Several South Asian leaders have been invited to the ceremony and Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina and Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe have already confirmed their presence. Invitations have also been sent to Nepal Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, his Bhutan counterpart Tshering Tobgay and Mauritius PM Pravind Jugnauth.