Modi Allies Meet as Lobbying Over Posts, Policies Intensify

(Bloomberg) -- Two days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s won backing from his coalition of allies, there’s intense jockeying over cabinet positions and policies.

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The Bharatiya Janata Party-led alliance met at the country’s parliament in New Delhi Friday and accepted Modi as the leader for the coalition. Modi and his council of ministers are expected to be sworn in by India’s president on Sunday, according to the Press Trust of India.

“The president has asked me to form the government,” Modi told media in New Delhi on Friday, adding that his alliance partners had elected him as their leader earlier on Friday.

A statement from the Indian president’s secretariat later said that Modi has been appointed as the prime minister of the country. The president has satisfied herself on the basis of various letters of support that the BJP-led alliance is in a position to form a stable government, it said.

Modi’s BJP failed to win an outright majority for the first time in a decade and is forced to rely on its allies for support in parliament. It won 240 seats by itself but the alliance secured a majority of 293 of the 543 seats in India’s lower house of the parliament.

Media reports and people familiar with the discussions say that two key allies — Janata Dal (United) and the Telugu Desam Party, which have 28 seats between them — are demanding key positions in Modi’s cabinet and also of the speaker of the house.

The BJP is keen on keeping the four key cabinet positions — finance, home, defense, foreign affairs — for its candidates, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because discussions are private.

Shazia Ilmi, a spokesperson for the BJP, said by phone the party is waiting for “final confirmation of the understanding with our allies.” She added the party expects a “smooth transition with Narendra Modi-ji as prime minister for the third consecutive term.”

Other allies have questioned some BJP policies and called for a review of a military recruitment scheme. They are even supporting a census to effectively count the country’s lower caste citizens, an initiative the BJP hasn’t favored.

Questions are also being raised about whether the BJP can follow through on some of its key Hindu-nationalist policies that have long been on its agenda. The mouthpiece of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh — the BJP’s ideological parent — questioned the future of some of these policies, in a post on the social media platform X.

It highlighted specifically the future of a proposal to end religion-based personal and property laws, and another to create a citizenship registry that many have feared is a way to disenfranchise India’s minorities.

--With assistance from Abhijit Roy Chowdhury, Santosh Kumar and Siddhartha Singh.

(Updates to add details from statement from president’s secretariat in fourth paragraph.)

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