India PM-elect Modi to keep defence, slashes full-rank cabinet to 23: reports

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NEW DELHI, May 26, 2014 (AFP) – India’s premier-elect Narendra Modi plans to slash 26 government positions and name himself as defence minister under a cabinet revamp set to be unveiled later Monday, reports said. Modi’s cabinet will number 45 including him, down from 71 in outgoing prime minister Manmohan Singh’s scandal-tainted Congress-led coalition administration, the Press Trust of Indian news agency and NDTV channel reported.

Modi, whose Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won the first majority in 30 years earlier this month, was due to be sworn in Monday at a mega-ceremony to be attended by India’s neighbours, including Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif. “Team Modi” will have 23 full-rank cabinet ministers, down from Singh’s 28, while the number of junior ministers known as ministers of state will be reduced to 22 from 43 in Singh’s government, the reports said.

NDTV, the CNN-IBN news channel and the Hindustan Times newspaper said Modi would make himself defence minister, while the BJP’s most senior woman leader Sushma Swaraj was widely tipped to be foreign minister.

Long-time Modi ally Arun Jaitley was seen as frontrunner for the vital finance portfolio as Indians look to the BJP to live up to prom