A decision on whether Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will appoint a number 2 to preside over cabinet meetings if and when he goes for a surgery may be taken after Union Minister Pranab Mukherjee returns from abroad later tonight. “The issue has not been discussed so far,” said a government source.
The PM did not name anyone when he was out of action earlier because of some minor surgeries, but this time he may have to designate some one officially to stand in for him if he goes for an operation that calls for an extended period of recovery.
Government sources said the PMO had also sounded out officials at Vice-President Hamid Ansari’s office that Ansari may be formally requested to present the National Bravery Awards 2009.
“It is a part of the procedure to designate someone….but the discretion lies with the PM,” said an official source.
As the senior-most member of the Union Cabinet, Congressman Mukherjee fits the bill. The other two senior ministers after Mukherjee include party colleagues Arjun Singh and AK Antony. Among the allied parrtners, Sharad Pawar and Lalu Yadav are the other two seniors.
Much would depend on the follow up action on the angiography tests. But with a two-week Parliament session starting from February 12, there is a possibility that the vote on accounts may be tabled in Parliament either by former Finance Minister P Chidambaram or if the PM chooses to make a statement on the issue in the Lok Sabha by a minister of state for finance.
Apart from the question of who will stand in for him, there is also speculation on whether Singh's health would affect the Congress's campaign during the Lok Sabha elections insofar as his projection is concerned.
“The PM’s projection will continue in the campaign though he may not campaign extensively during the elections," said a Congress leader.