M A I N   N E W S

Manmohan heads 68-member Ministry
Pawar, Arjun Singh, Laloo, Natwar Singh get Cabinet rank
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is greeted by Congress President Sonia Gandhi and senior CPI-M leader Somnath Chaterjee after the swearing-in ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on Saturday.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is greeted by Congress President Sonia Gandhi and senior CPI-M leader Somnath Chaterjee after the swearing-in ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on Saturday. — PTI photo by Subhash Chander Malhotra

Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee greets newly-appointed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after the swearing-in ceremony in New Delhi
Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee
greets newly-appointed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after the swearing-in ceremony in New Delhi on Saturday. — A Tribune photograph

New Delhi, May 22
Seventy-one-year-old Dr Manmohan Singh, also known as the architect of economic reforms, was sworn in as the country’s new Prime Minister today along with a 67-member Council of Ministers. These include 28 Cabinet rank ministers and 40 ministers of state with 10 of them having independent charge.

Not only is Dr Singh the first Prime Minister from the minority Sikh community but he also heads the first-ever Congress-led coalition government. He is expected to hold the finance portfolio.

Dressed in his trademark white kurta pyjama and blue turban, the Oxford- Cambridge educated economist took oath under the watchful eyes of scores of visitors and leaders, including Congress President Sonia Gandhi, who chose him for the post.

Given the nature of the new rainbow coalition, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) installed today has proportionate representation of virtually all alliance parties on the basis of their respective numerical strength. In addition, an effort has been made to ensure representation to the different states, castes and communities which, Dr. Manmohan Singh later maintained, “reflected Indian diversity.”

The glittering ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan’s Ashoka Hall marked the culmination of a week-long high-voltage drama first over the leadership of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and then over distribution of ministerial berths. With the tussle over ministries yet to resolved, the portfolios will now be announced tomorrow.

Referring to the formation of the Council of Ministers, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told mediapersons after the swearing-in ceremony that “there are always problems but we will find credible means to deal with them.” Given their spectacular success in the recent elections, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu had a fairly large representation.

Haryana,which also proved lucky for the Congress, got two berths - Ms Selja as Minister of State with independent charge and Rao Inderjeet Singh as Minister of State.

As the Congress is the largest party in the alliance, it accounted for 42 berths followed by eight of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), seven of the DMK, three NCP, two each from the PMK and the TRS and one each from the Lok Janshakti Party, the JMM and the IUML.

Among the Congress stalwarts who staged a comeback include the veteran seven-time minister Pranab Mukherjee now tipped to take charge of the Home Ministry. Another senior leader Arjun Singh is expected to return to his old job as head of the Human Resource Development Ministry. Mr K.Natwar Singh is likely to be the country’s next Minister for External affairs. Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad,Mr Kamal Nath, being considered for the Power Ministry and Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi for Parliamentary Affairs, were among the other Congress leaders who were given a Cabinet berth.

Former Lok Sabha Speaker Shivraj Patil and former Deputy Speaker P.M.Sayeed, who were defeated in these elections, were among the surprise inclusions today. It is learnt that the two senior leaders will be accommodated in the Rajya Sabha at the earliest opportunity. Mr Patil is likely to get the defence portfolio, according to Congress sources.Party spokesperson S.Jaipal Reddy could return as the Information and Broadcasting Minister, the post he held in the United Front government.

NCP chief Sharad Pawar, who had quit the Congress on the issue of party president Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin, is now back as a Cabinet minister in the UPA. He is to get the Food and Agriculture Ministry which, according to Mr Pawar, he had insisted upon. His colleague Praful Patel is likely to take charge of the Civil Aviation Ministry.

Having held up government formation for two days as he drove a hard bargain for key ministerial berths, RJD chief Laloo Prasad Yadav was among those administered the oath of office and secrecy by President A.P.J.Abdul Kalam.

MrYadav is all set to take over as the next Railway Minister but this has upset Lok Janshakti Party leader Ram Vilas Paswan, who was also eyeing this ministry. An upset Mr Paswan was threatening to boycott the swearing-in ceremony but was persuaded to do so by former Prime Minister V.P.Singh who also accompanied him for a meeting with Mrs Sonia Gandhi this morning.

The DMK’s nominees who got Cabinet berths include T.R.Baalu, Dayanidhi Maran and A.Raja while PMK chief’s son Anmbmani Ramdoss also made it to the Cabinet. While Mr Baalu is all set to return to the Environment Ministry, Mr Dayanidhi Maran is a front-runner for the Information Technology Ministry.



* Outgoing Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, five former Prime Ministers and former President K R Narayanan attended the swearing in ceremony of Dr Manmohan Singh at the Rashtrapati Bhawan. Former Prime Ministers I.K. Gujral, Chandra Shekhar, V.P. Singh, Narasimha Rao and H D Deve Gowda were present at the ceremony. Immediately on arriving, Mr Vajpayee exchanged pleasantries with Dr Singh and both provided the lensmen with a photo opportunity. Former Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani was also present. P.V. Narasimha Rao was seated beside Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Robert Vadra were among those present.

* The ceremony was a bi-lingual affair with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh alongwith 39 of his colleagues taking oath in English and the rest in Hindi. Dr Singh opted to take oath in English. Among the cabinet ministers to take oath in Hindi were Laloo Prasad Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan.

* DMK leader T R Baalu, who was minister in the United Front and NDA governments, today took oath as member of Congress-led coalition government. Before his ministerial stint in the NDA government, the DMK MP from South Chennai was the Union Minister of state for Petroleum in the H D Deve Gowda and I K Gujral governments

* Inclusion in the union ministry of senior Congress leaders, Shivraj Patil and P M Sayeed, both of whom lost the Lok Sabha polls, came as a surprise to most political observers. Names of two leaders did not figure in the speculation on the ministerial probables.

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