20 - 09 - 2019

Jaitley opts out of ministry, Modi 2.0 to take over today

Agartala, May 30,2019:A day before the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, suspense prevailed over the composition of his new Cabinet, with the only certainty being that senior leader Arun Jaitley will not be its part for now. 

Citing poor health, former Finance Minister Jaitley said he had decided not to take active responsibility in the new government. In a letter to Modi, the avid blogger who had been cogently and articulately defending the government on issues both inside and outside Parliament in the past five years, requested that he should not be assigned any responsibility in the government for now.

Jaitley wrote he had been suffering from ailments for the past 18 months and that he had also spoken to the PM before his Kedarnath trip about his decision to opt out of the new Cabinet.

“After the campaign had concluded and you were leaving for Kedarnath, I had orally informed you that even though I was able to discharge the responsibilities assigned to me during the campaign, I would in near future, for some time, like to keep away from any responsibility. This will enable me to concentrate on my treatment and health,” he said in the letter, which he also posted on the social media.

He added though he wanted some time off, he would be available to undertake any work “informally” to support the government. Jaitley, who has not been attending office for the past three weeks, met key officials of the Finance Ministry last week when he is said to have taken stock of the economic situation and approved an extension for the panel to review direct tax law, according to reports.

However, he has been keeping away from party meetings and was also not present during celebrations at the BJP headquarters on the result day, raising rumours over his health, which the party played down as “false and baseless”.

His letter comes at a time when speculation is rife over the possibility of BJP chief Amit Shah, the only leader PM Modi is said to be the closest to, joining the new Cabinet.

Political observers are also reading his letter on similar lines as ones posted by senior leaders Sumitra Mahajan and  Murli Manohar Joshi when they were denied the ticket for the Lok Sabha elections.

Ahead of the swearing-in ceremony on Thursday, both Modi and Shah held several meetings to finalise the new Cabinet. Shah also met JD-U chief Nitish Kumar and apparently asked him and other allies to send in the names of those they would like to be included in the Cabinet.

It is expected that Shiv Sena and JD-U will get two berths each, and Punjab ally Akali Dal, Ram Vilas Paswan-led LJP and UP partner Apna Dal a place each in the Council of Ministers. From the Akali Dal, it seems Harsimrat Badal is the party nominee. In the “new BJP”, only “two leaders in the BJP besides some in the RSS’ top brass” know who all are making the cut. Though Shah is believed to have asked the BJP’s likely ministers to meet him, all have chosen to keep mum.

As in 2014, this time too there is speculation about “new faces, integration of related ministries, technocrats being made in charge of key ministries and no changes in some departments, including the Prime Minister’s Office, to ensure continuity”.

( courtesy – The Tribune News Service)