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Govt Formation Plans Pick Up: Modi Meets Top Leaders

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Ahead of Cabinet formation, Prime Minister-elect Narendra Modi on Monday (19 May) held discussions with his close aide and BJP General Secretary Amit Shah and senior party leader Arun Jaitley even as newly-elected BJP MPs met senior RSS functionaries at the Sangh office in New Delhi.
 
Modi held the meeting at the Gujarat Bhawan in Chanakyapuri with Shah and Jaitley, who is likely to be inducted in the Cabinet despite losing in the Lok Sabha election.
 
Former UP Chief Minister and senior party leader Kalyan Singh also held discussions with Modi, who is likely to soon meet NDA allies' leaders, including Uddhav Thackeray and TDP representatives, BJP sources said.
 
A flurry of meetings took place at Rajnath Singh's Ashok Road residence with former Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, Uma Bharti, Gopinath Munde, Yogi Adityanath, Varun Gandhi and several newly-elected MPs calling on the BJP President.
 
Anupriya Patel of Apna Dal, which is an alliance partner of BJP in Uttar Pradesh, also met Singh. NDA has won 73 out of the 80 seats in UP.
 
"Our alliance has swept Uttar Pradesh and nobody can ignore the importance of the state. The BJP chief has already said that the interests of the alliance partners would be safeguarded. So, there is no need for us to say anything else," she said.
 
Newly-elected BJP MPs, including former Home Secretary R K Singh, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Delhi MPs Udit Raj, Manoj Tiwari and senior UP leader Vinay Katiyar had meetings with RSS senior functionaries at Sangh's Delhi headquarters in Keshavpuram. 
 
After meeting RSS leaders, BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said, "Tomorrow is Parliamentary Party meeting and all our MPs are coming and meeting the BJP President and the Sangh leaders. People have old ties and that is why they are coming here as well. The discussions are about tomorrow's meeting only and no other issue.
 
Javadekar, who also met the BJP chief, told reporters, "Only Modi and Rajnath Singh are holding discussions on that issue (of government formation) and other people are just meeting and greeting each other on the election victory." 
 
BJP MP from Hamirpur in Himachal Pradesh Anurag Thakur said he had come to thank the RSS for its support. "BJP works independently and will continue to do so," he said.
 
NDA's ally in Bihar and Lok Janshakti Party chief Ramvilas Paswan, along with his wife and son Chirag, also met Rajnath Singh at his residence.
 
"Neither I or Chirag has discussed anything about government formation or Cabinet portfolio with either Modiji or Rajnath Singh. I think this is BJP's prerogative to decide who will get what post in the new government," Paswan said.
 
NDA ally in Tamil Nadu MDMK chief Vaiko also met Singh.
 
The meetings come a day after Modi reached out to party elders L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi as top leaders held parleys on the formation of the new government that will be sworn in this week.
 
Modi Meets Advani, Joshi
Earlier, during the weekend, Prime Minister to-be Narendra Modi on Sunday reached out to party elders L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi as top leaders held parleys on the formation of the new government that will be sworn in this week.

The focus of the confabulations among the BJP top brass and the RSS appeared to be on the positions that could be offered to the veterans, like the post of Lok Sabha Speaker to Advani, keeping in view their stature and experience in the party and Parliament.

Gujarat Bhavan, Keshav Kunj, the RSS local headquarters, and BJP President Rajnath Singh's residence were hubs of consultations ahead of government formation in which allies are also expected to be included.

A flurry of activities marked the day when senior leaders including Sushma Swaraj, Venkaiah Naidu, Kalraj Mishra and Gopinath Munde met the RSS' second-in-command Bhaiyyaji Joshi notwithstanding statements by RSS leaders that they have no role in government formation.

The discussions gained momentum as the Election Commission handed over the list of newly-elected MPs to President, who is expected to set in motion the process of government formation after the BJP and its allies choose Modi as their Prime Minister so that he call him to head the new government.

Modi, who stayed put in Gujarat Bhavan here overnight, drove to Advani's residence just a little after noon in the first formal meeting between the two after the party's resounding victory in the elections. The meeting lasted 40 minutes.

Yesterday, the two had met at a meeting of the BJP Parliamentary Board and greeted each other before the media.

Nothing official was disclosed about today's meeting but sources say that the role Advani could play in the new dispensation was discussed. Advani had reservations over Modi being made the Prime Ministerial face but had to come around at the intervention of RSS.

In the evening, Modi went to the residence of Joshi, another veteran who was reluctantly made way for Modi in Varanasi. Modi spent well over an hour with him.

There has been speculation that Advani could be offered the post of Lok Sabha Speaker, a Constitutional office that could provide him a role independent of the government.

Among the names doing the rounds for possible inclusion in Modi's Cabinet include Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Rajnath Singh and Nitin Gadkari. Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, the Muslim face of BJP, can find place in the Cabinet as a minority representation.

The RSS appeared to be playing a role behind the scenes in the government formation though, for the record, there have been denials by its functionaries.

A number of ministerial-hopefuls including Karnataka leaders B S Yeddyurappa, Ananth Kumar, LJP leader Ramvilas Paswan met Modi in Gujarat Bhavan.

Parallely, party President Rajnath Singh held discussions with top leaders Arun Jaitley, Amit Shah and general secretary Ram Lal, an RSS pointsman in BJP. Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, who heads Naga People's Front (NPF) and has won the lone Lok Sabha seat in the state, met Modi as well as Rajnath.

Another Karnataka leader Jagadish Shettar met Modi and Rajnath Singh and RSS leaders later. He impressed upon them the need for the state to be given proper representation in the new government as the party has won 17 of the 28 seats.

On its part, the RSS said it may offer "suggestions if required" even as it made it clear that it is not acting as "remote control" and will not interfere in the functioning of the new BJP ministry or the party.

Paswan, whose party LJP has won six seats in Bihar, was accompanied by his wife Reena and son Chirag, who has also been elected.

BJP general secretary in-charge for Bihar Dharmendra Pradhan also met Modi to brief him on the political developments in Bihar in wake of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's resignation.

The meetings came a day after the BJP Parliamentary Board, the highest decision-making body of the party, met here for the first time after the landslide victory in the Lok Sabha elections to decide issues related to government formation.

It was decided yesterday that Modi will be formally elected as the leader of the BJP Parliamentary Party at its meeting here on May 20 ahead of taking oath as the Prime Minister.

(Agencies)