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Narendra Modi offers Manohar Parrikar defence portfolio

PANAJI: Breaking his silence over reports about his possible appointment as Defence Minister, Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar on Thursday said BJP chief Amit Shah had asked him to take up an assignment at the Centre, if offered, and that he was willing to shoulder the responsibility.

He also said though he does not feel comfortable about shifting to Delhi, he will take up the responsibility ‘if nation requires’ his services. “Party President Amit Shah spoke to me in the morning and asked me to accept any assignment that would be given by the Prime Minister,” Parrikar told reporters.

However, he did not disclose whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi had offered him the defence portfolio during their meeting on Wednesday. Latest reports said that Cabinet expansion will take place at 12 pm on Sunday.

Meanwhile, a BJP official told Reuters that Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will be relieved of defence portfolio, making it almost certain that Parrikar will be the next one on duty. Parrikar will be the new defence minister, said Sadanand Tanavade, a general secretary of the Goa unit of BJP.

Another source with direct knowledge of the discussions said Modi had offered defence to Parrikar. “He was offered the position,” the source said, but did not confirm if Parrikar had accepted. Tanavade later said that Parrikar had accepted a central ministry position but that the portfolio would be decided in New Delhi.

Like Modi, Parrikar has deep links to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), that provides ideological guidance to the BJP and seeks a strong India on the global stage.

“I want to give proper information as far as joining the cabinet is concerned. It is the prerogative of the Prime Minister. However, I would like to inform that the party has indicated to me that if such assignment comes, you should accept it,” Parrikar said.

Parrikar said he would be meeting BJP MLAs on Friday to brief them about the development. He, however, refused to say anything about who would be his successor. “There are many issues in deciding the successor... his capacity to deliver and to take everyone along. That is party’s internal assessment,” he said.

Meanwhile, top sources in Goa BJP said Parrikar will resign as Chief Minister on November 8, the day party's central Parliamentary Board will announce the name of his successor. “The announcement of the name of the new Chief Minister will be made in Delhi after the party’s Parliamentary Board meets on November 8 at 10 AM,” Parrikar said.