Manmohan Singh readies council of ministers, with personal touch

Thursday, 28 May 2009, 02:45 Hrs
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New Delhi: After three days of intense negotiations, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's new coalition government took final shape Wednesday with 78 ministers including 33 in the cabinet and with the Congress party accounting for three quarters of the three-tier ministry.

The selection of ministers -- a blend of youth and experience, first-time winners and veterans -- showed the touch of an assertive Manmohan Singh who was clear who he wanted in the government and who should be kept out. Congress president Sonia Gandhi gave him her full backing.

Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi finally did not make it -- on his own choice, disappointing many in the Congress who wanted to see his stamp in the government too.

With the average age of the ministers put at 57, Agatha Sangma, daughter of former Lok Sabha Speaker P.A. Sangma, is the youngest at 28. The oldest is External affairs minister S.M. Krishna, 77, one of 19 cabinet ministers who took oath May 22 and one of the six seniors who have got their portfolios.

The notable omissions in the cabinet list are H.R. Bhardwaj, Shivraj Patil, Arjun Singh, Sis Ram Ola, P.R. Kyndiah and Saifuddin Soz.

The 78-strong council of ministers includes 59 from the Congress and 19 from five allies: seven each from DMK and Trinamool Congress, three from Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and one each from the Muslim League and National Conference.

The outgoing Congress-led government had 78 ministers, with 23 allies.

This time nine women have become ministers, one less than in 2004. While Mamata Banerjee, Ambika Soni and Meira Kumar have taken oath of office, six more names were announced Wednesday.

Nineteen cabinet ministers, including Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee and NCP's Sharad Pawar, were sworn in May 22. Fourteen will take oath Thursday morning along with 45 ministers of state, seven of whom will hold independent charge.

The new cabinet ministers include three former chief ministers - Virbhadra Singh (Himachal Pradesh), Vilasrao Deshmukh (Maharashtra) and Farooq Abdullah (Jammu and Kashmir).

Three leaders from DMK have got in - Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi's son M.K. Azhagiri, Dayanidhi Maran and A. Raja.

The others are from the Congress: Mallikarjun Kharge, Kumari Selja, Subodh Kant Sahay, M.S. Gill, G.K. Vasan, Pawan Kumar Bansal, Mukul Wasnik and Kantilal Bhuria.

The ministers of state with independent charge are NCP's Praful Patel as well as Prithviraj Chavan, Sriprakash Jaiswal, Salman Khurshid, Jairam Ramesh, Krishna Tirath and Dinsha Patel (all Congress).

The 38 other ministers of state are E. Ahamed, V. Narayanasamy, Srikant Jena, Mullappally Ramachandran, D. Purandeswari, Panabaka Lakshmi, Ajay Maken, K.H. Muniyappa, Namo Narain Meena, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Jitin Prasad, A. Sai Prathap, Gurudas Kamat, M.M. Pallam Raju, Mahadev Khandela, Harish Rawat, K.V. Thomas, Saugata Ray, Dinesh Trivedi, Sisir Adhikari, Sultan Ahmed, Mukul Roy, Mohan Jatua, S.S. Palanimanickam, D. Napoleon, S. Jagathrakshakan, S. Gandhiselvan, Preneet Kaur, Sachin Pilot, Shashi Tharoor, Bharatsinh Solanki, Tusharbhai Chaudhary, Arun Yadav, Prateek Prakashbapu Patil, R.P.N. Singh, Vincent Pala, Pradeep Jain and Agatha Sangma.

Of these, E. Ahamed is from the Muslim League; the Trinamool Congress is represented by Saugata Ray, Dinesh Trivedi, Sisir Adhikari, Sultan Ahmed, Mukul Roy and Mohan Jatua; the DMK's four-member brigade comprises S.S. Palanimanickam, D. Napoleon, S. Jagathrakshakan and S. Gandhiselvan; the NCP's lone member is Agatha Sangma.

As many as 28 MPs - veterans included - will make their debut as central ministers. These include Vilasrao Deshmukh and Farooq Abdullah, former UN undersecretary general Shashi Tharoor as well as three women MPs - Agatha Sangma, Krishna Tirath and Preneet Kaur.

The others are Mallikarjun Kharge, M.K. Azhagiri, A. Sai Prathap, Gurudas Kamat, Mahadev Khandela, Harish Rawat, K.V. Thomas, Sisir Adhikari, Sultan Ahmed, Mukul Roy, Mohan Jatua, D. Napoleon, S. Jagathrakshakan, S. Gandhiselvan, Sachin Pilot, Bharatsinh Solanki, Tusharbhai Chaudhary, Arun Yadav, Prateek Prakashbapu Patil, R.P.N Singh, Vincent Pala and Pradeep Jain.

In the last council of ministers, there were 30 cabinet ministers, including eight from allies; ministers of state with independent charge comprised seven from the Congress and one from NCP; there were 26 from the Congress and 14 from allies among the 40 ministers of state.

Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra have five ministers each in the 33-member cabinet. Three of Delhi's seven MPs are in the government: Kapil Sibal, Ajay Maken and Krishna Tirath. However, Uttar Pradesh, where the Congress won an incredible 21 seats, finds no representation.

Tamil Nadu's total representation in the council of ministers will be 10 -- three from Congress and seven from DMK.
Source: IANS
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