M A I N   N E W S

Manmohan Singh to be PM
* Rajiv Gandhi’s vision his mission * DMK to join govt

T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 19
Without wavering from her renunciation of the office of the Prime Minister, Congress President Sonia Gandhi paved the way for highly respected and economist-politician Manmohan Singh to head a Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre.

Mrs Gandhi and Dr Singh called on President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam after the meeting of the CPP here this evening and submitted the documentation of support extended by the allies of the Congress, the Left parties and others.

The first citizen said he was “pleased to appoint Dr Manmohan Singh as the Prime Minister” and requested for the names of others to be inducted in the Council of Ministers.

According to PTI, Prime Minister-designate Manmohan Singh will be sworn-in on Saturday. The date and timing of the swearing-in are expected to be conveyed to the President tomorrow, Rashtrapati Bhavan sources said.

Mr Kalam handed a letter to Dr Singh recognising that he was the leader of the CPP and that the Congress enjoyed the “major support of the House of the People.”

On being appointed Prime Minister, Dr Singh said he felt humbled as the mandate was for Mrs Sonia Gandhi. “We spent hours and days trying to persuade her to accept the verdict of the people. She felt in the best interest of the nation to pass the burden to me,” he observed.

He affirmed that they would spell out the economic agenda in the common minimum programme. It will their endeavour to take the country forward towards the path of social and economic development in realising the vision of Rajiv Gandhi “so that the 21st century is the Indian century”. Stress would be laid on macro economic policies with strong emphasis on employment and agriculture.

Mrs Gandhi expressed happiness at Dr Singh being the next Prime Minister of the country and had no doubt that it “will be safe in his hands.”

Dr Singh, 71, will have the unique distinction of being the first member of the Sikh community to become head of government of the world’s largest democracy.

Occupying centrestage in the intricacies involved with government formation throughout the day, Mrs Gandhi set aside her partymen’s countrywide insistence that she had been given the mandate to be the Prime Minister with candour and pragmatism.

Taking the party’s pre-poll allies and the Left parties by surprise, she took the lead in holding consultations with Comrade Harkishen Singh Surjeet of the CPM, RJD’s Laloo Prasad Yadav and DMK supremo M. Karunanidhi in firming up the installation of a government of secular forces on Raisina Hill.

Mrs Gandhi received the backing of the non-NDA stream in their combined resolve to send the communal and fascist forces packing by handing over fresh letters of support to the Congress.

There was never any misconception in anybody’s mind either in the Congress camp or those of its allies and partners about Dr Singh being in the forefront for the job of the country’s chief executive. And all the political parties and groups in the NPA had no misgivings about Mrs Gandhi’s choice.

A person of impeccable credentials, the unassuming Dr Singh has never uttered a word about his ambitions for the country’s executive post and refused to be drawn into any such debate. There was never any doubt about Dr Singh’s widespread acceptability both in the political firmament of all hues and shades as also in corporate circles.

Mrs Gandhi’s fresh entreaties to Mr Karunanidhi to join the government as she was not there to lead the coalition arrangement found the Dravidian stalwart instantly reversing his earlier stand of extending outside support.

While feeling that the uncivilised behaviour of the BJP and the RSS might have been the reasons for Sonia opting out as the Prime Minister, Mr Karunanidhi stressed “We will have to work for the stability of the new government.”

Immediately, after the Karunanidhi-Gandhi meeting, speculation began about the representation to Tamil Nadu in the Union Council of Ministers. Those close to Mr Karunanidhi claimed the figure could be as high as one dozen.

At the same time, the Congress did not display the same enthusiasm of roping in the Samajwadi Party compared to the Left or its pre-poll allies. Expectedly, the SP announced that it would extend support from outside akin to the Left parties.

SP General Secretary Amar Singh disclosed that it was the decision of their parliamentary board which felt constrained to fall in line with the CPM. He, however, threw in a caveat that even though the support was unconditional it would not remain blindfolded.

It is apparent the exigencies of the prevailing political environment has left no other option for the SP chieftain Mulayam Singh Yadav but to continue as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. Consequently, Mr Amar Singh disclosed that his mentor will resign his Lok Sabha seat.

In a somewhat bellicose tone, Mr Amar Singh said the SP was not looking at reciprocity from the Congress which was keeping their party afloat in Uttar Pradesh. “Let them (the Congress) withdraw support if they want to,” he dared.

RJD’s Laloo Prasad Yadav described as Mrs Gandhi’s large heartedness of personally meeting the leaders of the Left as well as others and assured his party’s unstinted support to anyone the Congress elected as its Prime Ministerial nominee.

Attention will now be drawn to the common minimum programme the draft of which is being thrashed out by the Congress reconciling the views of the Left parties and the pre-poll allies. Dr Singh heads the committee and includes Pranab Mukherjee, Arjun Singh and Jairam Ramesh.

The day was not without its attendant drama at 10 Janpath Road residence of Mrs Gandhi where resignations of CWC members and MPs was the order of the day. This was widely considered as being in the scheme of things to force the leader to have a change of heart.

In a statement, Mrs Gandhi reassured her distraught colleagues and party workers that she was very much in politics and would continue as Congress President and Chairperson of the Congress party in Parliament for “as long as you want me to.”


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