Much like five years ago, Manmohan Singh (76) may be sworn in again as Prime Minister on May 22.
There is no firm word on it, but the timeline would indicate this as the most probable date once the Congress has gone through the formalities of electing Sonia Gandhi (62) as parliamentar party (CPP) chairperson, choosing Singh as parliamentary party leader on Tuesday and consulting its pre-poll partners on Wednesday.
Since Rajiv Gandhi’s death anniversary falls on Thursday, Friday is being seen as the most likely date for the oath-taking ceremony though there is also a window for Wednesday.
“The chairperson of the CPP would be elected first and then the leader of the parliamentary party will be elected at the CPP meeting,” said spokesman Janardan Dwivedi.
Once President Pratibha Patil invites him to form government, Singh will be sworn in with a team of members from the Congress and its pre-poll allies.
While the process of government formation was set in motion with the dissolution of the 14th Lok Sabha on Monday, there was speculation whether Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Lalu Prasad would be given a second chance by the Congress.
On Monday, Lalu offered to Singh his support “without any precondition and expectation”. He also used the UPA’s last Cabinet meeting to congratulate the PM and also voice his anguish that some Congress leaders, like Bihar in-charge Iqbal Singh, have been humiliating him on TV. Iqbal Singh reportedly called him a “gaddar’ (betrayer)”.
The PM reportedly did not react to this or to Lalu’s statement that the UPA, which won 261 seats in Lok Sabha, would still need numbers.
“I lodged a protest in the Cabinet meeting today. I told the PM that small-time Congress leaders are making derogatory remarks and this is not good for the health of the government,” Prasad said.
“It is an irony and a tragedy that a man who in his political career has sent 300 MPs to Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha is being attacked by two-penny politicians. The hurt is deeper because he was the first to support Sonia Gandhi (when she was being attacked) and had called her India’s daughter- in-law,” said his colleague Prem Chand Gupta.
There are two views in the Congress over Lalu. A majority is against any tie-up so that the Congress can rebuild in the state. But an influential section believes be may be given a second chance because of his unstinted support to Sonia before he set up the fourth front with the Samajwadi Party and Lok Janshakti Party.
Lalu’s inclusion would also divide the fourth front. The four MPs he would bring — along with nine Independents and five Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) MPs — would help the UPA cross 272.
As for the RLD, the Congress wants it to merge with it. But RLD chief Ajit Singh is yet to respond.