India election 2014: PM-in-waiting Narendra Modi plans for the future as he decides on his cabinet ministers

Delhi

The winners and losers of India’s historic election held crucial meetings on Monday – one to plan for the future, the other to rake over the past.

Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister-elect who secured a landslide victory, met with a flurry of senior figures from his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and set about working out who will take up the major positions in his cabinet. Announcements are likely be made later this week.

Meanwhile, a committee of the Congress party, which suffered its worst ever result, began the process of working out what went so badly wrong. Rahul Gandhi, who headed the party’s lacklustre campaign, and his other, Sonia, who is president of the party, both offered to resign but their suggestion was turned down.

Mr Modi, who managed to win the biggest numbers of seats since 1984, is due to be formally elected by his party on Tuesday and will be sworn in as India’s 16th prime minister in the coming days. There has been speculation about who will make up his cabinet and given that Mr Modi does not require any coalition partners to form a government, he will be able to choose who he wants.

 

Among the names being mentioned for the some of the key posts are Arun Jaitley as either finance or foreign minister, Rajnath Singh as home minister, Sushma Swaraj as defence minister and Arun Shourie in the finance job if Mr Jaitley is not given it. There is speculation that the party’s patriarch, LK Advani, who failed to lead the party to power in 2009 and who has a famously troubled relationship with Mr Modi, could become Speaker of the parliament.

Mr Modi’s planning for the future is in stark contrast to the travails of the Congress party, which now faces the task of trying to rebuild, having won just 44 seats. While many in the party expected they were going to be beaten, nobody believed things would be this dire. There is not a single Indian state where the tally of MPs belonging to India’s oldest political party reaches double figures.

Read more: How will Modi change the country?

Since the results of the election were announced last Friday, there has been much talk over whether or not Mr Gandhi and his mother would tender their resignations. But a succession of senior party figures said over the weekend that even if they did offer to do so, their resignations were unlikely to be accepted.

On Monday afternoon, the members of the party’s so-called working committee gathered at its headquarters in the leafy avenues of British-era Delhi to start the process of examining why they lost so badly. Most of the members of the committee are selected by Mrs Gandhi, insulating her from challenges. Among those saying Mrs Gandhi and her son should remain was India’s outgoing prime minister, Manmohan Singh.

“The results have been disappointing, and we had shortcomings. Sonia took the responsibility and offered to resign, although the party members rejected it unanimously,” said spokesman Janardhan Dwivedi, according to the Asian News International news agency “Even Manmohan Singh said that he takes the responsibility for government failure.”

The humiliating defeat suffered by the Congress has sparked widespread discussion about whether this night mark the end of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, the so-called First family of Indian politics. While party officials insist the family is the “glue” that binds the party, others are not so sure.

“I think that it is now difficult for the family to come back. Sonia is ill, Rahul is seen to have failed, and Priyanka has stated that she doesn’t want public office. The key players in Congress have run out of steam,” said Rani Singh, who wrote a 2011 biography of Mrs Gandhi.

“They have, through their own inaction, burst the bubble that used to be around them. The dramatic reduction in the Congress  seat win shows that the voters no longer care about them. That is why this is a historic time for India.”

As the members of the Congress committee left the party headquarters, many were grim faced. Few muttered more than a few words. A dozen members of the party’s youth wing delivered some half-hearted chants.

A man called Bhagat, who had a makeshift stall that sold party souvenirs, said he been been selling T-shirts and caps for 42 years. “Business goes  up and down,” he said. “It was busy during the election. But now I will only sell things if someone comes here specially.”

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