Manmohan sworn in as PM with 67 ministers
This includes 28 Cabinet ministers, 39 Ministers of State, with ten of them having independent charge.Cong list included 18 Cabinet ministers.Highlights: Swearing-in Ceremony »New Cabinet | Number Crunching
It would be interesting to calculate the man-hours spent putting together the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance's (UPA) 68-member Council of Ministers sworn in at Rashtrapati Bhawan on Saturday. But barring one discordant note that still rankles, there was, at the end of it, an element of symphony to the orchestra in place.
The conductor, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, walked out of the ornate Ashoka Hall all smiles as did Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who, in the manner of a lyricist, had packed the chorus with passion unheard of in politics by declining to be PM.
For the record, Sonia said it was, for her, just like any other day. Except, of course, that ``we have a government in place and we have defeated the anti-secular forces.'' But her body language suggested a long-awaited celebration.
In the midst of the bonhomie, the LNJP's Ram Vilas Paswan appeared a bit distraught over missing the train: instead of him, RJD chief Laloo Yadav, with his bigger legislative muscle, will be the new railways minister. Before sending the list of ministers to President A P J Abdul Kalam, Manmohan Singh had had to ensure that Paswan, who is Sonia's next door neighbour, didn't stay home. Bihar's dalit leader was mollified with the promise of Health and Chemicals and Fertilisers.
In his quest for experience, Singh also seems to have left a few young hearts a trifle dejected. Of the Congress' new, promising faces in Parliament, not one has found a berth even as a MOS in which category the party has over a dozen ministers. Merit has obviously been expended at the altar of regional and caste balance.
When quizzed about it, Sonia, who herself phoned most ministers about their induction, reasoned she needed people to work in the organisation. She also indicated that after the first session of the new House, she'd focus on reconstituting the AICC: ``Some of the young MPs may be useful in the party. I'm touched by Ambika Soni's decision to keep out of the government and work for the organisation.''
Consequently, the Congress' team of 18 cabinet ministers and eight ministers of state with independent charge was on predictable lines. Among the surprises were Meira Kumar and Sunil Dutt's direct elevation as cabinet ministers, and the induction of Shivraj Patil and P.M. Sayeed, both of whom lost the recent Lok Sabha elections from Latur and Lakshadweep respectively. Patil was Sonia's deputy in the 13th House, and might get the Defence portfolio.
In fact, Singh and Sonia might make some last-minute changes before announcing the portfolios on Sunday. But the DMK is certain to get Surface Transport, Environment and Forests, and IT and Telecommunications. Shipping might go to the TRS and Mines to the JMM. In addition to Laloo's Railways portfolio, Raghuvansh Prasad Singh will be his party's cabinet rank minister for Rural Development.
Among the Congress stalwarts, Pranab is tipped for Home, Arjun Singh for HRD and K Natwar Singh for External Affairs. For a blend of youth with experience, Singh has opted for the less conspicuous among the relatively younger Congress MPs in an obvious search for regional balance: Bihar's Shakeel Ahmed and Haryana's Rao Inderjeet. In this category, only Prithviraj Chavan's induction seems to have been prompted by merit. But the gap has been filled a bit by the UPA's southern constituents with the DMK's Dayanidhi Maran, who may handle IT & Communications and the PMK's A Ramadoss, both sworn in as cabinet ministers.