December 21, 2014
India elected PM Modi faces first challenge, filling his cabinet
India's prime minister-to-be Narendra Modi was huddled in discussions with close aides and advisers, finalising the names of people to join his cabinet and grappling with the crucial decision of who will be his finance minister.
Two days after he won a thumping victory in the general election, there was little clarity about who Modi would include in his team, even in other key portfolios like defence, interior and external affairs.
The alliance led by Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 336 of the 543 seats in India's lower house of parliament, making it the first time in a quarter of a century that the country will not be led by a coalition government.
One of his most important decisions will be whether to name front-runner Arun Jaitley to the finance minister's post. Jaitley is eminently suited, sources in the BJP said, but he was defeated in his race for a parliamentary seat and that is a minus point.
Yet Jaitley is a former commerce minister, is regarded as a capable administrator, and is one of the few people in the party who has experience but is not too old at 61.
Modi and his inner circle have played their cards close to their chests and are unlikely to reveal who will take senior cabinet posts until a meeting of the BJP parliamentary leadership on Tuesday, one senior party leader said. Modi was considering merging some ministries to streamline government, other sources said.
The meeting is expected to confirm Modi as the party's parliamentary leader, after which he will meet President Pranab Mukherjee to formally start the process of forming the government. He is likely to be sworn in as prime minister this week.