Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, 76, and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, 62, had discussions on the second round of ministry making and allocation of portfolios to the remaining 13 cabinet ministers here on Saturday.
Consultations on expanding the council of ministers followed allocation of portfolios to the top six cabinet ministers.
UPA sources indicated the strength of the council of ministers could be anywhere between 55-60 on completion of the exercise that’s currently underway. The process could go beyond Tuesday when the second batch of ministers— including some young faces — are likely to be sworn in.
Portfolios of the remaining 13 Cabinet Ministers would be finalised by Sunday. Those will not include the ministries offered to the DMK in the talks that failed to make headway.
Reports from Chennai indicated a perceptible softening in M. Karunanidhi’s position after the PM cleared the air that he wasn’t objecting to the inclusion of any individual DMK leader in his team (read A. Raja, 46, and T.R. Baalu, 67).
But well placed sources in Delhi reported no “forward movement” in the efforts to break the impasse, with the southern party over portfolios.
The DMK was asked to choose the third Cabinet slot from an assortment of portfolios that included Textiles, Labour, Food Processing and Micro, Medium and Small-scale Enterprises.
The first round of ministry formation included two prominent UPA allies -- Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool and Sharad Pawar’s NCP. In the second, Farooq Abdullah, 71, of the National Conference and E. Ahamad, 71, of the Indian Union Muslim League would most likely be on board.
As for former Law Minister H R Bhardwaj, 72, who failed to figure in the first batch of ministers, it wasn’t immediately clear whether he’d be accommodated in the next round that will see 35-40 ministers taking oath. One probable inductee could be NCP leader P A Sangma’s daughter Agatha, 28. Pawar has recommended her as MoS against his party quota. (With inputs from Saroj Nagi)