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India polls: PM-elect Modi grapples with first challenge - filling his cabinet

Published on May 18, 2014 5:06 PM
Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi (centre), India's prime minister-elect from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), watches a ritual known as "Aarti" during evening prayers on the banks of river Ganges at Varanasi, in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh on May 17, 2014.  Prime minister-elect Narendra Modi summoned senior figures from his Hindu nationalist party on Sunday, May 18, 2014, for talks on building a new government that is set to steer India sharply to the right. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW DELHI (REUTERS) - India’s prime minister-to-be Narendra Modi was huddled in discussions with close aides and advisers on Sunday, 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. Mr 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 Mr 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.

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