Cong draws up ministry plan

Cong draws up ministry plan

Sonia, Manmohan to meet President on Tuesday; DMK, TMC to get plum posts

Cong draws up ministry plan

Of immediate attention was the top Congress leadership’s concern on whether its former allies — Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party (SP) — could be made partners yet again.

In the next couple of days, the Congress will also have to take a decision on the shape and size of the Council of Ministers. To this end, the party will take a view on the number of Cabinet berths it would offer to allies, including the Trinamool Congress, which returned to Parliament with a thumping win in West Bengal, and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK).

No room for RJD, SP?

Initial indications are that the Congress may not be inclined to include the RJD and the SP in the new ministry.

The run-up to the formation of the new government will be preceded by the formal end of the existing one. Prime minister Manmohan Singh will hold the last meeting of the existing council of ministers on Monday at 11.45 am and will later meet President Pratibha Patil to submit his resignation.

The president will ask Singh to continue until alternative arrangements are made. The Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP) will meet on Tuesday to choose its leader.
The Congress has asked its allies in the UPA to furnish their letters of support by Tuesday evening.

Armed with the support letters, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, along with Manmohan Singh, will meet the president to stake claim to form the government. The new government may be sworn in on Friday, if not earlier.

Sunday’s meeting of the Congress’ core committee and the Congress Working Committee (CWC) brainstormed the issue of formation of the Cabinet to be led by Manmohan who has been declared the next prime minister by the AICC president.

Congress sources told Deccan Herald that while the core committee did not discuss specific names, some views were exchanged on whether Lalu Prasad and Mulayam Singh could be taken on the UPA board.

Sonia is understood to have invited Lalu for Monday’s Cabinet meeting, while sources said the party was split over the issue. There is also the voluntary support extended by the Janata Dal (Secular)which could secure only three seats in Karnataka.
The Congress seemed to be undecided but open to the JD(S) issue.

“We may finally leave the issue to the state leaders to decide. Reliability is the factor while deciding allies,” a CWC member said.

According to sources, the overwhelming opinion was not to have Mulayam’s SP on board.
The Congress group opposed to the Fourth Front was of the opinion that since the mandate was clearly for a clean, stable and scandal-free government, it would be wise to not include bigger allies whose pressures and whims the party might have to yield to in the future. Mulayam, for instance, is faced with a CBI enquiry over a disproportionate assets case and this, Congress leaders believe, could be a source of pressure.

A second issue that weighed heavily on the minds of the Congress leadership was to revive the party’s fortunes not just in UP but also in Bihar. Congress sources felt it would be a liability to include the SP and the RJD since the party saw potential successes to be made in the two states in which Mulayam and Lalu still command substantial force. However, other leaders felt that the SP should be accommodated since it had extended support during last year’s no-confidence motion.

On the other hand, Lalu, some Congress leaders felt, needed to be encouraged to checkmate Bihar CM Nitish Kumar. Unlike Mulayam, Lalu he is part of the UPA and is a minister. Since he earlier steadfastly supported the Congress, he should be invited again to be part of the government.

Yet another thinking within the Congress has it that the party needed a buffer of 20-30 MPs in the event of trouble from the Trinamool Congress or the DMK. However, informed sources said that since West Bengal and Tamil Nadu would go to the polls in 2011, it was unlikely that the two regional outfits would rock the UPA boat. Also, both need the Congress badly. Thus, the support of Mulayam and Lalu should not be taken.

In this context, Pranab Mukherjee’s comment on Sunday that the Congress only had seat arrangement and not a post-poll alliance with the Trinamool is significant. Mukherjee’s statement was a bid to preclude any “unreasonable” demands by Mamata Banerjee with regard to cabinet berths.
DH News Service

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