The buck, as the economy copes with the double whammy of a persisting inflation and a slowdown, may stop with the Prime Minister himself. With finance minister Pranab Mukherjee set to move to Rashtrapati Bhawan, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh may keep the finance portfolio with himself for some time.
India’s economy has slowed to a growth rate of 5.3% in the last quarter of 2011-12, the slowest since 2003-04 amid concerns expressed by experts that that managing a restive alliance has consumed more time rather that prudent policy making.
Indications are that Singh will keep the finance portfolio to himself to steer the economy hit by rising prices, industrial deceleration, a global economic crisis and a weaker rupee.
Mukherjee is expected to resign on June 24, a day after the PM returns from his nine-day foreign trip to Mexico and Brazil.
“It is up to the PM to decide who will be the next finance minister... the Congress president and the PM will decide,” Mukherjee told reporters.
“I do not think I am depository of all knowledge and expertise. In our government and in our party there are a number of people who can handle difficult economic situation. The PM himself is an eminent economist and we will overcome this temporary crisis under his stewardship.”
Besides, a new leader of house in the Lok Sabha will also have to be appointed after Pranab Mukherjee’s move to Rashtrapati Bhawan.
Home minister P Chidambaram, power minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and petroleum minister Jaipal Reddy are being considered to replace Mukherjee as the leader of the house in the Lok Sabha.
Further, the PM will have to appoint a new railway minister to replace Trinamool Congress’ Mukul Roy if the Banerjee-led party decides to quit the UPA government. Sources said DMK has sounded out that it would be keen on getting the railways portfolio.