Narendra Modi, who got a massive mandate for a second consecutive term, will be sworn in as Prime Minister on Thursday at the head of a new government that will not have Arun Jaitley, who has opted out on health grounds, even as speculation mounted on whether BJP President Amit Shah would be part of it.
Modi and Shah have had several rounds of discussions in the last few days, including for about five hours on Monday, and the final touches would be given on the morning of Thursday in view of the fact that the swearing in ceremony is scheduled at 7 PM in the forecourt of the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
President Ram Nath Kovind will adminster the oath of office and secrecy at the function which will be attended by Heads of government and represenatives from BIMSTEC countries besides Prime Minister of Mauritius and President of Kyrgystan, who is also the chair of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
State chief ministers, including those running non-BJP governments, and captains of industry will be among the few thousand guests at the swearing in function. Several overseas friends of BJP from 15 countries, including the US, Australia, Germany and the UK, have been invited.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who had earlier decided to attend the function, today announced she will be present, accusing the BJP of trying to politicise the occasion by inviting the families of victims of BJP workers allegedly killed in political violence. Banerjee plans to stage a dharna in Kolkata to seek protection for her party workers from BJP's "vioence". She is miffed with BJP for taking away her MLAs, which is continuing after the elections.
With Jaitley expressing his inability to be part of the government "for the present" because of health reasons, speculation is focused on whether Piyush Goyal, who presented the interim budget in February, and has held fort in the North Block on two occasions in the absence of Jaitley, would be entrusted the charge of finance minister in the new government.
The possibility of Amit Shah entering the Cabinet in an important political portfolio like Finance or Home as a reward for the series of successes through his organisation abilities for the BJP in the elections in the last five years topped by the massive mandate got in the Lok Sabha elections is considered high.
There will be another vacancy in the important Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) if Sushma Swaraj, who held the External Affairs portfolio, does not make it to the Cabinet as she did not fight the elections citing health grounds.
Interest is also centred around whether Nirmala Sitharaman will be retained in the Defence portfolio, while 'giant killer' Smriti Irani is expected to be given a key portfolio. With states like Karnataka, West Bengal and Odisha returning a good number of MPs, there is expectation that these states will get good representation in the new government.
The names of Tejaswi Surya, the young MP from Bangalore South, and Shobha Karandlaje, MP from Chickmagalur, are doing the rounds for inclusion in the government.
The possibility of former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is also being speculated because of the near sweep of the BJP in the state after its recent loss in the Assembly elections.
The new Cabinet is also likely to have representatives of allies, including JD(U), Shiv Sena, Akali Dal and AIADMK.