PM to announce portfolios today, may retain Finance

Updated on May 23, 2004 01:58 PM IST

Manmohan is to name his cabinet today, but the architect of India's reforms is almost certain to keep the Finance Ministry with himself.

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PTI | ByReuters, New Delhi

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in his first day in office, is to name his Cabinet on Sunday, but the architect of the country's reforms is almost certain to keep the key Finance Ministry with himself.

Singh, 71, took over as Prime Minister of the world's largest democracy on Saturday, completing the return of the Congress party to power after a surprise election win.

A team of 67 ministers, decided after marathon negotiations and rows within the Congress-led coalition, was also sworn in on Saturday. But their portfolios are yet to be announced.

Singh, a former finance minister, was chosen to head the country after Congress's Italian-born leader Sonia Gandhi declined the job.

The Congress party is seen retaining other key portfolios along with Finance. Former diplomat Natwar Singh is likely to be made Foreign Minister and former Lok Sabha speaker Shivraj Patil is tipped to be Defence Minister.

The allies have 25 seats in the council of ministers and are likely to be given mostly portfolios which will give them domestic clout.

Of the ministers sworn in, 28 were of Cabinet rank, including former finance minister P Chidambaram who is likely to be the Commerce Minister and NCP chief Sharad Pawar tipped to be the Agriculture Minister.

RJD chief Laloo Prasad Yadav, who had walked out of Cabinet formation talks, was among those who took oath. He is tipped to be the Minister for Railways.

The swearing-in ceremony ended days of intense negotiations among parties in the coalition -- named the United Progressive Alliance -- which is also close to finalising its policy agenda, party officials said.

Markets have been volatile, fretting over how the disparate alliance will pull together on policy issues and worrying that the country's crucial economic reforms may be derailed.

A draft of the Common Minimum Programme, the bedrock of Government policy, pledges the new government will aim for an annual 7-8 per cent economic growth encourage foreign investment but slow down privatisation of state firms, party officials said.

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