Induction of new ministers put off amid intense lobbying


New Delhi: The oath-taking of the second lot of ministers in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s team was put off and is expected to take place Thursday as crisis managers in the Congress party cope with pulls and pressures from allies as well as ministerial aspirants in the party.

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Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) Tuesday said that at least 10 cabinet ministers and over 40 ministers of state, some with independent charge, were expected to take oath of office.

“There are a lot of ministers who will take oath in the next round and there is still some fine-tuning to be done,” said a PMO official.

A Congress core group chaired by party president Sonia Gandhi met here to take a final call on allocation of ministerial berths and portfolios after the marathon meeting held with Manmohan Singh the previous night.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Defence Minister A.K. Antony and political secretary to the Congress president Ahmed Patel attended the meeting that has more or less finalised the list of probables for the new ministry.

Part of the delay in finalising the names to be included in the council of ministers is because crisis managers are burdened with aspirations of other allies after the DMK succeeded in wheedling seven ministerial berths for itself, says party insiders.

Besides A. Raja, M.K. Azahagiri and Dayanidhi Maran of the DMK who are expected to be made cabinet ministers, four other MPs – S.S. Palanimanickam, Jagathrakshakan, filmstar-turned-politician D. Napoleon and Gandhiselvan – will become ministers of state.

What has also added to the holdup is that there were many contenders for key portfolios and several Congress party veterans had also throw their hats in the ring.

“There is a problem for instance in deciding on the commerce, human resources development and law portfolios as there are many worthy nominees and therefore we have to strike a fine balancing act,” a senior Congress party functionary told IANS on condition of anonymity.

Following the DMK’s tough stance, allies like the Trinamool Congress and Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) have also mounted pressure.

While Praful Patel of the NCP is certain to make a comeback into the cabinet, Pawar is learnt to be lobbying for another berth.

The Congress, it is learnt, is also undecided about the portfolios to be allocated to its own MPs as it wants to give sufficient representation to key states like Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Kerala where it drew rich dividends in the general election.

According to party sources, the names of former Congress chief ministers Virbhadra Singh and Vilas Rao Deshmukh were also in the race for cabinet posts. Similarly, former Karnataka Congress state president M. Mallikarjun Kharge, National Conference patron Farooq Abdullah and Beni Prasad Verma from Uttar Pradesh were also hopefuls.

Manmohan Singh and 19 senior cabinet ministers were sworn in on May 22.