SM Krishna gets external affairs, Pranab finance

SM Krishna gets external affairs, Pranab finance

13 ministers yet to get portfolios

SM Krishna gets external affairs, Pranab finance

S M Krishna, Pranab

After a gap of almost 25 years, Pranab Mukherjee, the senior most minister in the first and the new United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, returned to the North Block as the Finance Minister.

The induction of Mukherjee, who held the Defence and External Affairs portfolios in the first UPA government, is being seen as a clear indication that the new Manmohan Singh government could adopt a cautious approach to some of the more contentious economic reform issues.

The Congress leadership preferred a heavyweight politician like Mukherjee for the portfolio over economist Montek Singh Ahluwalia whom the Prime Minister had in mind for the job. Besides allocating the portfolios to Krishna and Mukherjee, the Prime Minister on Saturday also distributed the portfolios to A K Antony, P Chidambaram, Sharad Pawar and Mamata Banerjee. Antony retains the Defence portfolio, Chidambaram Home and Pawar Agriculture. As was widely reported, Banerjee, the Trinamool Congress leader, returned to the Rail Bhawan, as the new Railway Minister. She held the portfolio in the erstwhile NDA ministry.

The Prime Minister was yet to make the job allocation for the thirteen other Cabinet rank ministers sworn in on Friday, including M Veerappa Moily.

With his elevation to the key ministry, Krishna became the first politician from Karnataka to be entrusted with the External Affairs minister’s job. In the process, Krishna will also become a member of the key panel of Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) which besides the Prime Minister consists of External, Finance, Defence and Home ministers.

Crucial decisions

The CCS deliberates and takes all crucial decisions concerning the country’s national security.

All the unallocated portfolios will be looked after by the PM till their distribution, a Rashtrapati communiqué said here. The limited allocation of portfolios has come as a surprise in political circles which, however, said this showed that the Prime Minister was keen that these key ministries should get down to work at the earliest.

The 20-strong UPA ministry is likely to be expanded on Tuesday when more cabinet ministers and ministers of state would be inducted. It is likely that the DMK, which stayed away from the cabinet, would be included during the expansion.

Krishna takes over as the 35th foreign minister of the country, a portfolio which was held by late prime ministers  Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and P V Narasimha Rao.

The Rajya Sabha MP, who assumes charge of the ministry at the majestic South Block on Monday evening, will have his hands full right at the beginning, what with the Indian neighbourhood - especially Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal - witnessing turmoil. For the last few years, Krishna had missed out on becoming Union minister. First, there was speculation that he would take over as foreign minister when Natwar Singh was forced to resign in 2005.

Then, political circles were agog with rumours that he would become Union minister after he resigned as Maharashtra governor in March, 2008. Finally, that would take over as FM when Chidambaram was shifted to home after Shivraj Patil put in papers in November.

However, the party, aware that the electoral mandate was largely for proper implementation of social sector schemes like job guarantee scheme and Bharat Nirman, did not want an economist at North Block. The PM had to concede.

Obama calls up Manmohan

US President Barack Obama on Saturday spoke to Manmohan Singh congratulating him on being sworn in as Prime Minister for a second term and invited him to pay an early visit to the United States, reports PTI from New Delhi.

Singh reiterated his invitation to Obama and his family to visit India, which the President said was a priority for him.

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