Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s 100-day action plan for his government has got delayed by a bit more. The next round of cabinet expansion is now scheduled for Thursday at 11.30 am.
About 55 ministers — including those from the Congress’s pre-poll alliance partners such as the DMK, the Trinamool and the NCP — are likely to be sworn in, taking the overall tally to 75, said a source.
<b1>Since the government can have 81 ministers (including the PM), six berths will be available for future exigencies.
Manmohan Singh, 76, and Congress president Sonia Gandhi (62) met for over three hours on Tuesday evening to draw up the list of party nominees for Thursday’s swearing in.
The duo, who have held at least 10 meetings since they first began the exercise before the May 22 swearing in, may go for another meeting before forwarding the names to Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Earlier in the day, Gandhi conferred with senior colleagues including finance minister Pranab Mukherjee (73), defence minister AK Antony (68) and her political secretary Ahmed Patel (59).
As had happened on May 22, the Prime Minister’s Office is expected to release the names of the new inductees ahead of the swearing-in ceremony.
Much to the discomfiture of the 13 cabinet ministers who have not yet been assigned any responsibility, the portfolios of all ministers will be announced at one go.
The list of 55 will include about 40 experienced and young Congress nominees as cabinet ministers, ministers of state (MoS) with independent charge and MoS.
While trying to give a regional and social balance to the team, the party will also cater to states where it needs to revive itself as well as election-going states and states where it did well in the Lok Sabha polls.
The inductees may include Virbhadra Singh (74), Prithviraj Chavan (63), Mallikarjun Kharge (67), KH Muniyappa (61), Panabaka Lakshmi (50), Jyotiraditya Scindia (38), Selja (46), Jiten Prasada (35), D Purandeshwari (50), Sachin Pilot (31), Shashi Tharoor (53), Mukul Wasnik (49), Srikant Jena (58), Girija Vyas (62) and Salman Khursheed (56).
The DMK will have three cabinet ministers — MK Azhagiri, 58,(fertilisers and chemicals), Dayanidhi Maran, 42,(textiles) and A Raja, 46, (IT & telecom) — and four MoS.
The Trinamool Congress will get six MoS slots : Mukul Roy, 55, (tourism), Dinesh Trivedi, 58, (health), Saugata Roy, 56, (urban development), Shishir Adhikary (rural development), Sultan Ahmed (minority affairs) and Mohan Jatua, 71 (I&B).
The big question is whether party chief Mamata Banerjee will renew her demand for one berth more than the DMK. Against the DMK’s 18 MPs, she has 19. The NCP’s Praful Patel, 52, and Agatha Sangma, 28, will also be sworn in.
Other possible inductees include National Conference’s Farooq Abdullah, 71 and E Ahamad.