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All dressed up and nowhere to go

Waiting time is always long and frustrating, more so if you have been sworn in as a Union minister but do not know even four days after that what work would be assigned to you.

delhi Updated: May 26, 2009 23:41 IST

Waiting time is always long and frustrating, more so if you have been sworn in as a Union minister but do not know even four days after that what work would be assigned to you.

Thirteen of the 19 ministers who had taken oath with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (76) on Friday are still waiting for their portfolios.

They hope the uncertainty will finally end in a day or two, and are till then trying to keep themselves busy in activities for which they normally do not get time.

Some of the ministers were ready to share their thoughts, while others chose to lie low till their ministeries were decided.

Former Karnataka chief minister and senior Congress leader N. Veerappa Moily (69), inducted into the Union Cabinet for the first time, is giving finishing touches to his book — Unleashing India — which is to be released on June 5.

“The first book in the series I intend to write on different subjects is now almost ready. It concentrates on Indian agriculture. I know that time will be a problem once I assume office as minister,” Moily said.

He laughed off the question on whether the portfolio wait has been tough. “It is getting over now,” Moily remarked, refusing to be drawn in on his preference of department.

Ambika Soni (65), Tourism and Culture Minister in the outgoing Cabinet, dressed comfortably in a salwar-kameez instead of a formal sari, has been catching up with friends and colleagues in the Congress and re-reading her party manifesto.

“It’s important to stay au courant (up-to-date) on how the party feels about things,” she said.
Asked what portfolio she was likely to get, Soni’s reply was: “That is not for me to decide. Somebody said I’m getting health, so I’ve been downloading pages and pages on the subject because I’ve been busy with other issues so far.”

Kapil Sibal (60), one of the ministers being talked about the most regarding what ministry he is likely to handle this time, does not appear to be willing to open his cards.

“I am busy going around my constituency, Chandni Chowk. I have been doing it since the last five days and intend to complete it this week,” he said.

One of the most effective Congress spokespersons in recent years, Sibal said he was surprised at the level of media speculation on portfolio allocation this time. “It is the call of the prime minister,” he said.

Sibal’s colleague, Vyalar Ravi (72), dressed in his characterstic white shirt and dhoti, was more forthcoming.

“The Congress president and prime minister are having a close look at every state and region. Do not forget, choosing ministers from a mandate of 206 Lok Sabha MPs and some from the Rajya Sabha is not easy,” Ravi said.

“Once you have been appointed a minister, the next responsibility will automatically follow. What is the problem,” Ravi asked.