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Rajnath says ready to take rap for BJP defeat, won't give up Hindutva

BJP chief Rajnath Singh said on Saturday he was willing to take responsibility for the setback suffered by the party in the recent General Elections and made it clear that that the organisation would not jettison its Hindutva agenda.

Rajnath Singh
Rajnath Singh
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President Rajnath Singh today said he was willing to take responsibility for the setback suffered by the party in the recent General Elections and made it clear that that the organisation would not jettison its Hindutva agenda, asserting that the ideology represented the very identity of India.

In his presidential address to the two-day meeting of the National Executive of the BJP, which began here this morning, Mr Singh said some people had started advising the party to abandon Hindutva after losing the General Elections for the second time in a row.

He refused to accept the suggestion from such quarters that the election results were a rejection of the ideology of Hindutva.

"Since we have emerged as the main opposition party, how can it be said that we or our ideology have been totally rejected by the people?" he asked.

"Hindutva is the national essence of India. It is the natural flow of India’s national consciousness. Hindutva has not emerged out of a political resolution from the parliamentary board or executive of a party or organization; it is the national identity of India. On account of this very identity, the political nature of India is inherently democratic," he said.

"Ideology is a constant which is a perpetual guiding force for a party over and above victory or defeat in elections. Hindutva / Bharatiyata / Cultural Nationalism occupies the same esteemed space in the politics of the BJP as the Constitution of India occupies in the politics of the country," Mr Singh said.

"Though we may not have got the expected success in the elections, but even today I am not willing to accept that our policies based on the feeling of staunch nationalism are faulty. Even today we are firm on all the issues raised by us, be it related to external and internal security of the country, foreign policy, terrorism, appeasement or disrespect to the cultural symbols or those related to the plight of the common man or farmers, as these issues are relevant for the country," he said.

Mr Singh said that the party had, in its election manifesto, reiterated its commitment for building a temple at the Ram Janmabhoomi in Ayodhya, its clear views for abrogating Article 370 of the Constitution and its appeal for implementing the Uniform Civil Code.

"Even today we are firm on these issues because we believe that they are the core issues of the unity and integrity of the country. All these issues are in national interest. In the coming years we need to more effectively convince the people about these issues," he said.

At the same time, Mr Singh accepted that the party might not have been able to disseminate its position on these issues among the people as effectively as it was required. He said the party, perhaps, needed to present its views "in a better and more contemporary context."

"For this, it is necessary that we evaluate our organizational structure, campaign and strategy," he said.

Mr Singh said that, as per the BJP's tradition and ideology, "success is a collective credit and failure is a collective responsibility." Therefore, the party must collectively find a solution out of its present crisis, he said.

"Yes, if anyone feels that any person should take the responsibility, then as the President of the party, I am willing to take this responsibility," he said.

This is the first meeting of the BJP's National Executive after the elections and it is being held in the background of very strong and rather public criticism of the party leadership by some of its senior leaders about the manner in which it had responded to the electoral defeat and its aftermath. They were especially resentful of the fact that there was no attempt within the party to analyse the causes for its poor show in the elections and discuss remedial measures.

In particular, there has been criticism by such leaders as former Union Ministers Jaswant Singh, Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie about the way in which those who were responsible for the strategies adopted for the elections have been chosen for major responsibilities again. The two-day meeting is, therefore, expected to be a stormy affair, with more leaders likely to give vent to their feelings on the defeat in the elections and related issues.

Anticipating some of this trouble, Mr Singh plunged straight into the topic in his presidential address.

"The results were not upto our expectations. The people have once again given us the mandate to sit in opposition. We accept the verdict with humility and will once more resume our work. While we may be surprised by the results, we are certainly not demoralized by them," he said.

Mr Singh said the results were "definitely a subject of serious introspection and analysis for us."

"At every step we will undertake introspection and analysis. The conclusions that emerge from this process of churning of ideas will become our guiding light....In my opinion, there might have been some shortcomings in our dedication and action. With time we need to do away with these shortcomings," he said.

At the same time, Mr Singh took pains to point out that the BJP had not been defeated across the nation. "At some places our performance has been spectacular, in some places we have substantially improved as compared to earlier, in some places it has been as it is and in some states our performance has been disappointing," he said.

"Yet the reality is that in totality we have lost 22 seats from what it was in the previous Lok Sabha," he said.

He went on to analyse the meaning of the results and said the people's verdict had given a big jolt to parties which used the politics of pure opportunism and had made it a fashion to unnecessarily pressurize the government to display their strength. He made particular mention of the Left parties and the Bahujan Samaj Party in this context.

"All such parties who followed this type of unprincipled politics that had emerged over the last 15-20 years, suffered heavily in these elections," he said.

"On the one hand, the dreams of those parties who pursued caste-based politics got shattered, and on the other hand, several candidates having the image of musclemen were also badly defeated. So at least on this account, the results of the 15th Lok Sabha have given an indication that our democracy is becoming more mature," he remarked.

"This election has virtually demolished the politics of despotism and absolute opportunism. In West Bengal and Kerala the people have not only taught a lesson to the communists by defeating them, but have also put a stop to their political blackmailing," he said.

The big difference between the second largest and third largest parties clearly indicates that the people’s confidence in the country is increasing towards bi-polar politics, Mr Singh said.

"That is why we can claim that if in the forthcoming years we properly expand our organization and take effective steps to get the people’s mandate, then tomorrow will definitely be ours," he declared.

Mr Singh said the BJP had always placed greater emphasis on the nation over votes and had never used caste, creed and religion for the sake of votes.

He said the BJP would continue its fight for the cause of India’s poor, farmers, labourers and the common man. He also promised that on all issues of national interest and those connected with the welfare of the average citizen, it would fully support the government.

"However, for this the government will also have to step forward. As is expected in a democracy, it will be the responsibility of the government to show that it is continuing with the tradition of building consensus on all important issues," he said.

Mr Singh said the manner in which comments and propaganda were being made about the BJP's defeat could create confusion in the minds of the party's workers and supporters.

He dwelt at length on the direct and indirect effect of Hindutva on politics in India and said the politics of the so-called right wing had a definitive space in the history of the country. He said this space had never become vacant though its context kept on changing.

"The past indicates that this so called right wing positions in Indian polity were never left vacant. We are the natural flag bearers of this legacy. In this is imbibed our pride of the past, the strategy of the present and achievement in the future," he said.

Mr Singh said the BJP's political power would be assessed in standing on the pole opposite to the Congress. "...the political reality of today indicates that we should be seen clearly on the pole opposite and different to the Congress. Otherwise any kind of confusion not only in principle but also in political terms would be detrimental to us," he stressed.

Arguing that the election results showed that political parties that had relinquished their basic character had to bear losses, he said changing the basic character or ideology would prove to be fatal for any party.

"Therefore any such idea would be fatal for us in future. We should free ourselves from any such illusion," he said.

"When we talk about the basic character of the party we should keep in mind that we are not an ordinary political party which has the sole aim of forming the government. But we are a representative party of such an ideology the goal of which is to establish a new era and civilization. Our thinking has a civilizational parameter. Therefore, defeat in one or two elections cannot deviate us," he said.

"If we want to change history then we will have to possess an extremely strong will to stand against the tide of time," he said.

Mr Singh said the party would have to kindle trust among the people again and expand itself organisationally, ideologically, socially and politically. For this, the tradition of "Not me, but you" will have to be revived, he stressed.

The BJP chief said it was a matter of some concern that only 38 of the party's MPs in the previous Lok Sabha had been re-elected this time. He said a similar pattern had been noticed in the previous elections, too. He urged party MPs to take care of their constituencies and reminded them that they had a major role in helping to rebuild the image of the party.

Mr Singh had a special word of praise for the BJP governments in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, which, he said, had been re-elected because of their good performance. He said the BJP governments in all the states ruled by it had a huge responsibility to win the people's affection and goodwill.

He made a special mention of the need for discipline within the organisation and said the party's interests were always above the interests and aspirations of individuals.

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India, Bhutan discuss ways of strengthening ties

India and Bhutan on Thursday held talks on ways of further strengthening their unique relationship and boost economic cooperation between them for the prosperity of their people.

India and Bhutan today held talks on ways of further strengthening their unique relationship and boost economic cooperation between them for the prosperity of their people.

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, who reached Thimphu today on a two-day official visit, met King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuk, his predecessor and father, the Fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuk, Prime Minister Jigmi Y Thinley and Foreign Minister Lyonpo Ugyen Tshering during the day.

"In all these conversations, it was evident that the warmth and the meeting of minds that characterize India-Bhutan relations were stronger and deeper than ever," Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon told reporters in the Bhutanese capital.

Mr Menon said both sides felt the relationship was in excellent state and saw the future of the two countries as being interlinked.

Mr Krishna told the Bhutanese leadership that India looked forward to working with Bhutan to bring about development and prosperity and reviewed progress in the implementation of Bhutan's Xth Plan and the developments over the last one year.

The two countries have set themselves an ambitious target of at least 10,000 MW of electricity generated in Bhutan through Indo-Bhutan cooperation by 2020.

"We are on track. In fact, we have projects which exceed 11,000 MW and we have an Empowered Joint Group which has senior people from both sides to expeditiously implement the MoU. They will be meeting within next month to see the implementation on ground," Mr Menon said.

''The Minister was also briefed on progress in Bhutan and he was gratified to hear about various issues in the Kingdom and the successful democratic transition that is taking place. I think it is important to note that ours is not just any relationship, but one which probably does not have another parallel anywhere else. This is also a relationship which is absolutely trouble free. There is a great deal that we want to do together," he said.

This is Mr Krishna's first visit abroad after he took over as External Affairs Minister in the new United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in May.

"I am very happy to be here on my first visit abroad as the External Affairs Minister of India. We wish to reaffirm our close relations. I bring greetings and good wishes from the government and people of India for Bhutan," Mr Krishna said in a statement on arrival at Bhutan's Paro airport this morning.

He said India and Bhutan shared uniquely warm and cordial relations founded on close consultations, maturity, complete trust, mutual understanding, shared interests and mutually beneficial cooperation. "They are an example of good-neighbourly relations," he said.

"We are privileged to be a close development partner of Bhutan for about half a century based on the Royal Government’s priorities. We, therefore, rejoice in Bhutan’s progress and prosperity.

"While our multi-faceted cooperation covers a broad canvas, cooperation in the hydropower sector is a key element. Building on the successful execution of the three hydro projects – Chukkha, Kurichu and Tala – the Governments of the two countries have decided to add another 10,000 MW of hydropower capacity by 2020. This would substantially benefit both the countries," Mr Krishna said.

The Minister congratulated Bhutan for the successful completion of the first year of its historic transition to a constitutional democratic monarchy. He noted that India had been able to share its experience in democracy with Bhutan through interactions between Parliamentarians of the two countries.

Soon after his arrival, Mr Krishna flagged off the first Druk Air flight from Paro to Bagdogra in West Bengal which would facilitate greater connectivity to promote trade and tourism between the two countries. Druk Air already operates flights to Delhi and Kolkata.

Mr Krishna and his Bhutanese counterpart signed the boarding passes of some of the passengers themselves before seeing the flight off.

This is the first international commercial service that the Bagdogra airport will handle. The airport also becomes the second in West Bengal, after Kolkata, to handle international flights.

The Minister will also sign the memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the Nehru-Wangchuk Scholarships that would provide an opportunity to meritorious and talented Bhutanese students to study in prestigious Indian universities and institutions.

The visit also serves to underlines India's decision to remain engaged with its neighbours.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had visited Bhutan in May last year and President Pratibha Patil was present at the formal coronation of the present King in November last year.

At a banquet hosted for him this evening, Mr Krishna said the substance of the bilateral relationship was manifested in the ever widening canvass of the interaction between the two countries, covering a broad spectrum such as, power, transport, communications, infrastructure, education, IT, industry, medicine and agriculture.

He assured the Bhutanese leadership that India would stand with Bhutan, the world's youngest democracy, in the fulfillment of its democratic aspirations.

Mr Krishna said that in the years ahead the two countries would need to work together even more closely in deepening and widening the canvass of their bilateral engagement.

"India will fulfill its commitments under Bhutan’s 10th Five Year Plan, and for the fruition of many other projects where we are working together, including new and emerging areas such as IT. In Bhutan’s march to peace, progress and prosperity, India will be your reliable companion," he added.

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Krishna in Bhutan on two-day visit

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna is in Bhutan on a two-day visit during which he will hold discussions with its leadership on ways of further strengthening bilateral relations and economic cooperation between the two countries.

S M KrishnaExternal Affairs Minister S M Krishna is in Bhutan on a two-day official visit during which he will hold discussions with its leadership on ways of further strengthening bilateral relations and economic cooperation between the two countries.

This is Mr Krishna's first visit abroad after he took over as External Affairs Minister in the new United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in May.

"I am very happy to be here on my first visit abroad as the External Affairs Minister of India. We wish to reaffirm our close relations. I bring greetings and good wishes from the government and people of India for Bhutan," Mr Krishna said in a statement on arrival at Bhutan's Paro airport this morning.

He said India and Bhutan shared uniquely warm and cordial relations founded on close consultations, maturity, complete trust, mutual understanding, shared interests and mutually beneficial cooperation. "They are an example of good-neighbourly relations," he said.

During his stay in Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, Mr Krishna will have meetings with King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuk, his predecessor and father, the Fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuk, Prime Minister Jigmi Y Thinley and Foreign Minister Lyonpo Ugyen Tshering.

"We are privileged to be a close development partner of Bhutan for about half a century based on the Royal Government’s priorities. We, therefore, rejoice in Bhutan’s progress and prosperity.

"While our multi-faceted cooperation covers a broad canvas, cooperation in the hydropower sector is a key element. Building on the successful execution of the three hydro projects – Chukkha, Kurichu and Tala – the Governments of the two countries have decided to add another 10,000 MW of hydropower capacity by 2020. This would substantially benefit both the countries," Mr Krishna said.

The Minister congratulated Bhutan for the successful completion of the first year of its historic transition to a constitutional democratic monarchy. He noted that India had been able to share its experience in democracy with Bhutan through interactions between Parliamentarians of the two countries.

Mr Krishna flagged off the first Druk Air flight from Paro to Bagdogra in West Bengal which would facilitate greater connectivity to promote trade and tourism between the two countries. Druk Air already operates flights to Delhi and Kolkata.

This is the first international commercial service that the Bagdogra airport will handle. The airport also becomes the second in West Bengal, after Kolkata, to handle international flights.

The Minister will also sign the memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the Nehru-Wangchuk Scholarships that would provide an opportunity to meritorious and talented Bhutanese students to study in prestigious Indian universities and institutions.

The visit also serves to underlines India's decision to remain engaged with its neighbours.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had visited Bhutan in May last year and President Pratibha Patil was present at the formal coronation of the present King in November last year.

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PM meets Zardari, calls for action against terror groups

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari on the sidelines of the SCO Summit in Yekaterinburg on Tuesday and is understood to have told him to take strong and credible action to end acts of terrorism against India emanating from Pakistan.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meeting Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari in Yekaterinburg on Tuesday.Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit in the central Russian city of Yekaterinburg today and is understood to have told him to take strong and credible action to end acts of terrorism against India emanating from Pakistan.

Details of their discussion were not immediately available, but it is learnt that Dr Singh also told Mr Zardari that it was imperative that Pakistan brought those responsible for the November 26, 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai to book without delay.

This was the first meeting between the two leaders after the Mumbai attacks, which claimed 166 lives and which India blamed on elements based in Pakistan. They had last met on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September, 2008.

India suspended the composite dialogue with Pakistan after the attacks and said the process could resume only if Pakistan acted against those behind the terrorist act.

Pakistan has been repeatedly calling for the resumption of the dialogue so that outstanding issues between the two countries could be discussed and sorted out.

Last Tuesday, Dr Singh said in Parliament that India was willing to meet Pakistan more than half-way if Pakistani leaders created the right atmosphere for the resumption of the peace talks by dismantling the terrorist infrastructure aimed at India operating out of its territory.

India and Pakistan are both Observer States at the SCO and the summit has provided an opportunity for the two leaders to break the ice and discuss ways of taking the peace process foward in the given circumstances.

There have also been reports that the United States has been pushing both countries towards early resumption of their talks. Last week, US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William J Burns, who met Dr Singh and other Indian leaders in Delhi, told reporters that Washington would welcome such talks, but left the pace, timing and scope of such a dialogue to the two countries.

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India wants to intensify engagement with Central Asia: PM

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is leaving here later today on a three-day visit to Russia to attend the SCO and the BRIC Summits, said India could make significant contributions to and gain considerably from the two groupings.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is leaving here later today on a three-day visit to the central Russian city of Yekaterinburg to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and the Brazil-Russia-India-China (BRIC) Summits, said India could make significant contributions to and gain considerably from the two groupings.

India is an observer-country at the SCO Summit that will be held tomorrow morning. The BRIC countries will hold their first-ever stand-alone summit tomorrow afternoon and evening.

India has been attending the SCO Summit regularly since 2005, but has been represented only at the ministerial level. This is the first time that Dr Singh has decided to attend the meeting himself.

"My decision to attend the Summit is a reflection of the high regard we have for Russia’s Presidency of the SCO, and our desire to intensify our engagement with countries of our extended neighbourhood in Central Asia.

"There are issues which concern both of us, such as the fight against terrorism and extremism and cooperation in areas of energy security, infrastructure development, agriculture, transportation, science and technology and education. India and the SCO stand to gain considerably from each other through such cooperation," he said in a pre-departure statement issued here today.

Dr Singh pointed out that BRIC countries together accounted for 40 per cent of the world's population and 40 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product. He said the grouping had the potential to lead global economic growth. In fact, he felt global economic recovery was closely linked to the success of the BRIC economies.

"India is among the fastest growing BRIC economies, and we are ready to play our part in coordinating international efforts to overcome the ongoing financial and economic slowdown. BRIC countries also have a role to play in promoting the principle of multilateralism in international affairs, and in the reform of institutions of global governance, including the United Nations, to reflect contemporary realities. From these points of view, the convening of the first stand-alone summit of BRIC countries is a significant development," he said.

The Prime Minister said he also looked forward to meeting and exchanging views with the other world leaders who will be present in Yekaterinburg.

This will be Dr Singh's first foreign trip after assuming office on May 22 for a second straight five-year term in office.

A major highlight of the visit will be the meeting he is expected to have with Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari on June 16 on the sidelines of the SCO Summit.

While no formal meeting has been scheduled between the two leaders, it is clear that they will come face-to-face at the Summit, where Pakistan is also an observer-state.

"They will be in the same room, at the same place, at the same time. I am sure they will be meeting but what sort of meeting it will be is very difficult to say because the time will be limited," Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon had said on Friday while briefing journalists on the Prime Minister's visit.

He said it was difficult to predict what kind of talks the two leaders would have, while making it clear that no structured meeting was in the offing, at least partly because of the paucity of time.

The interaction between the two will be their first after the November 26, 2008 terror attacks on Mumbai, which claimed 166 lives and which India blamed on elements based in Pakistan.

India has since then suspended the composite dialogue with Pakistan and said the process could resume only if Pakistan took concrete action against those responsible for the attacks.

Last Tuesday, Dr Singh said in Parliament that India was willing to meet Pakistan more than half-way if Pakistani leaders created the right atmosphere for the resumption of the peace talks by dismantling the terrorist infrastructure aimed at India operating out of its territory.

Apart from shaking hands and breaking the ice, the two leaders are expected to talk very briefly abut how to take things forward in the given circumstances.

There have also been reports that the United States has been pushing both countries towards early resumption of their talks. Last Thursday, US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William J Burns, who met Dr Singh and other Indian leaders in Delhi, told reporters that Washington would welcome such talks, but left the timing, pace and scope of such a dialogue to the two countries.

Mr Menon explained that, at its last summit in Dushanbe, the SCO had decided to raise the involvement of the Observer States to a qualitative new level. And this time, for the first time, the Observer States and the Member States will be meeting together in both a restricted format and then in an expanded plenary where they will discuss all issues together.

"It is a measure of how important we think the SCO is that the Prime Minister is going himself, also because we think it is particularly important that regional cooperation in Asia should be encouraged at a time when the world economy is under considerable stress and when there are major issues which need to be discussed at the summit level," Mr Menon said.

The BRIC leaders will have a restricted meeting of the leaders tomorrow afternoon, followed by delegation-level talks. The four leaders are then expected to address the media together.

They are expected to exchange views on subjects such as the ongoing global economic meltdown, its implications for the world economy and for security, progress in the G-20 Summits, food and energy security, development and climate change issues and regional developments, Mr Menon said.

The SCO was founded in 2001 and brings together China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. India, Iran, Pakistan and Mongolia are "observer" countries in the grouping.

The main thrust of SCO's discussions are on security in Central Asia, terrorism, drug trafficking and related issues. In recent years, the discussions have also focussed on strengthening economic and cultural cooperation in the region.

Yekaterinburg is a major city in Central Russia, located on the eastern side of the Ural mountain range, and the main industrial and cultural centre of the region. With a population of about 1.3 million, it is Russia's fifth largest city. Between 1924 and 1991, the city was known as Sverdlovsk.

The Prime Minister will be accompanied on the trip by National Security Adviser M K Narayanan, his Principal Secretary T K A Nair, Mr Menon and other senior officials. He is scheduled to return home on June 17.

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Yashwant Sinha quits all BJP posts

Former External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha Saturday resigned from all posts in the BJP in protest against the manner in which the organisation had responded to the setback it had suffered in the recent General Elections.

Yashwant SinhaAs the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) struggled to cope with dissensions in the aftermath of its electoral defeat, former External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha today resigned from all party posts in protest against the manner in which the organisation had responded to the crisis.

In a letter sent to BJP President Rajnath Singh, Mr Sinha was scathing in his criticism of the post-election happenings in the party and suggested that all office-bearers of the party and its parliamentary party should quit and the posts then filled up through the process of election laid down by the party's constitution.

"If we are a party with a difference, let us set an example in abnegation. If the responsibility is collective, as I have often heard you say, then all of us should jointly share the responsibility for our defeat. Let the party implement its own Kamraj Plan under which all office bearers of the party and the parliamentary party should resign from their posts which should then be filled up through the process of election laid down by our constitution," he said.

He said he was, therefore, submitting his resignation from the post of the Vice-President of the party, the membership of its National Executive and from all other positions of responsibility in the organisation. He sent copies of the letter to members of the party's core group.

Despite repeated attempts, Mr Sinha, 71, who was in Jharkhand, could not be contacted for his comments. His aides said he was in a meeting with party workers.

However, Mr Nalin S Kohli, convener of the BJP's Media Cell, told NetIndian that the resignation had been received and accepted.

Mr Sinha was elected to the Lok Sabha in the recent elections from the Hazaribagh constituency of Jharkhand.

The former Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer had served first as Finance Minister and then as External Affairs Minister in the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government headed by then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He had two stints as Finance Minister earlier, too.

The news about Mr Sinha's resignation came just a few days after media reports about a note written by former External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh to the Leader of the Opposition Lal Krishna Advani. The reports said Mr Singh had, in his letter, questioned the way in which the party was being run and complained about how there was no co-relation between performance and rewards.

That was seen as a comment on Mr Advani's decision to appoint Mr Arun Jaitley as the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, among other things.

Before that, Mr Arun Shourie had highlighted the need for a proper analysis of the reasons for the party's poor show in the elections.

There were also some murmurs in the party over the manner in which Mr Jaitley and Mr Sudheendra Kulkarni, considered close to Mr Advani, had aired their views about the reasons for the party's defeat in newspaper articles.

Ironically, the news about Mr Sinha's resignation came just as Mr Rajnath Singh was holding a press conference to announce that strict action would be taken by the party against those airing their views on the party's affairs in public in violation of the organisation's discipline.

Mr Rajnath Singh also refuted media reports about the party being in disarray, saying that the leaders were united and would analyse the reasons for the BJP's defeat in the elections.

He said the election results were "not upto the expectations" of the BJP but the party accepted the people's verdict with humility.

"The BJP's emergence as the principal opposition party clearly indicates that millions of voters expect the BJP to perform the role as a responsible and responsive opposition party to ensure that the government does not treat the mandate as an excuse to take any decision that may go against the interests of the common man," he said.

He said the recent statements and interaction of some BJP leaders on various media platforms appeared to have created an impression in some quarters that the party's leadership was in disarray and was not analysing the reasons behind the defeat.

"This is far from the truth. The BJP leadership stands united and is already in the process of analysing the outcome of the results to assess why the party could not get the mandate it expected. This obviously has to be an exhaustive and collective exercise and it has already begun at various levels," he said.

The BJP President said the entire process would culminate in a detailed "Chintan Baithak" (brainstorming session) in August after the coming session of Parliament.

He also announced that the party had decided that disciplinary action would be taken against any party leaders or functionaries who speak out of turn.

"As President of the party, I have to say that it has been decided that henceforth, all party leaders and functionaries should refrain from formally or informally sharing any views or inputs outside the party forums such as the media or any other platform, about the internal deliberations within the party or share any information that might negatively impact the image of the party, failing which they will invite disciplinary proceedings against themselves," he said.

In his letter, Mr Sinha wrote about how he was surprised to find that, as far as the party was concerned, it was "business as usual" despite the defeat in the elections. He said he had hoped there would be meetings to review the party's performance, draw lessons from the defeat and initiate remedial steps.

According to him, the election had thrown up issues which the party could ignore only at its peril. He said these issues related to the party's basic tenets, its policies and programmes, the issues that it raised during the elections, the language in which these were expressed, the election strategy that was adopted, the campaign style of its leaders and the faces the party projected.

The four-page letter also talked about the need to understand the voting behaviour of various groups such as the minorities, first-time voters, women, scheduled castes and tribes, the urban middle class, government employees, farmers and industrial workers. It also said the party must understand the factors which helped the Congress increase its tally from 145 seats in 2004 to 206 in this election.

Mr Sinha felt a detailed review would not only be instructive and show the party the path for the future, but also help establish the principle of accountability. Pointing out that the party had not carried out any review even after the 2004 defeat, he said he was getting a "sinking feeling" that once again there was a conspiracy of silence.

He said that those responsible for the management of the campaign had, meanwhile, already made their views public, drawn their conclusions,apportioned blame and given themselves a clean chit. Those who actually toiled in the field and took all the risk had not even been heard, he said.

Mr Sinha said Mr Advani had set a fine example of accountability by declining to take up the position of the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha. But he was persuaded to continue, just like some others who had wanted to take responsibility and resign, he said. According to him, it appeared that there were some people in the party who were determined to ensure that the principle of accountability did not prevail "so that their own little perch is not disturbed."

He also said the party had completely disregarded the parliamentary party constitution in the elections of the office-bearers of the parliamentary party on May 31. He said it was difficult to avoid the impression that the party had put a premium on failure.

According to him, the party's reluctance to introspect and the rat race for posts was unacceptable to many in the organisation.

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PM writes to Ministers on government's priorities

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has written to his colleagues in the Council of Ministers highlighting the priorities of the United Progressive Alliance government in its second term and listing out some dos and don'ts for them.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has written to his colleagues in the Council of Ministers highlighting the priorities of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in its second term and listing out some dos and don'ts for them.

Dr Singh said the people's mandate in the recent General Elections was both for continuity and change. He said the people had endorsed the government's efforts in its previous tenure to create an inclusive society and an inclusive economy.

"The flagship programmes that we put in place to translate this vision of inclusion into reality need to be consolidated. We have to ensure that these flagship programmes confer appropriate benefit on disadvantaged groups particularly scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, minorities, women and children. The empowerment of women is central to our agenda" he said.

The Prime Minister said ministers looking after flagship programmes must address the task of plugging leakages in the operation of these programmes with single-minded devotion.

He said the President's address to the joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament had drawn attention to some areas of immediate concern. Certain activities had also been identified which need to be pursued in the next 100 days, he said.

"I would request you to focus on the issues raised in the President's Address within the time-frames indicated. I have asked my Principal Secretary to follow up on these issues," he said.

Dr Singh reminded the ministers of their special responsibility in respect of the institutions under their watch, whether they are public sector undertakings or other autonomous institutions.

"The spirit of functional autonomy in which they have been conceived should be respected in full and there should be no action that may lead to the erosion of this autonomy or credibility," he said.

The Prime Minister said India's parliamentary traditions were constantly evolving and the country was setting new benchmarks in its democratic enterprise. He said work related to Parliament and the Committees of Parliament should receive the ministers' undivided attention so that the aspirations of the people were brought to bear on governance through their elected representatives.

He also urged the ministers to ensure that requests of Members of Parliament for appointment were attended to on priority basis and their letters replied to quickly. "We should make conscious efforts to enlarge and deepen the democratic processes," he said.

Dr Singh said ministers with Cabinet rank who have Ministers of State reporting to them had a special obligation. He said the junior ministers must be given adequate responsibility so that they got a sense of involvement and ownership and were also groomed for bigger roles in the future.

"Respect for dissent and argument is the essence of our culture. I do not have to labour the point that we must give due consideration to the views of the opposition and seek to work together for the collective well-being of our people," he said.

He said the UPA government had, in its first term, been noted for its bipartisan approach on development issues.

"We have been objective and fair in dealing with the genuine concerns of all State Governments. Let me urge you to ensure that all requests made by State Chief Ministers, and Ministers are responded to quickly and effectively. You may also like to ensure that Panchayati Raj Institutions and civil society have an appropriate role in the formulation and implementation of development projects and schemes," he said.

Dr Singh said India faced many challenges on the economic front and the government had to ensure that the economy continued to grow rapidly inspite of the global slowdown.

"We must create an environment conducive to rapid growth and also ensure that the growth process benefits all our people, especially the disadvantaged sections of the population. Our young population is our strategic resource and we must ensure that the agenda of the youth in terms of education, skills, and employment remains our key concern. As you would see, the agenda of our government, as indicated in the President's Address, has several major steps for equalizing opportunities for all our fellow citizens. We need to be focused on them. We need to push the frontiers and question outdated practices to bring a critical edge to governance. The Decade of Innovation about which the President spoke in her address should see promotion of creativity and innovation in your areas of work. Equity, innovation and public accountability should be the watchwords of our government," he said.

The Prime Minister made it clear that matters that required the views or concurrence of other Ministries or involved unbudgeted financial outlays ought not be made public without due consultation.

"The collective responsibility of the Cabinet enjoins us to do so. Needless to say, in case you have urgent problems or you consider it necessary to make any policy announcements you can always take them up with me.

"I am confident that you would bring to bear your considerable experience in public life and your professional commitment on the onerous task assigned to you. Once again I wish you all the very best in your endeavours as we grapple with the many challenges we face as a nation," he added.

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India will reshape relationship with Pakistan: President

President Pratibha Patil said on Thursday that the government would seek to reshape India's relationship with Pakistan, depending on the sincerity of Pakistan's actions to confront groups who launch terrorist attacks against India from its territory.

President Pratibha Patil today said the government would seek to reshape India's relationship with Pakistan, depending on the sincerity of Pakistan's actions to confront groups who launch terrorist attacks against India from its territory.

The remark has come at a time when relations between the two countries are strained after the November 26, 2008 terrorist attacks on Mumbai, which claimed nearly 180 lives and which India has blamed on elements based in Pakistan.

India has accused Pakistan of not doing enough to bring those responsible for the attacks to book and has stalled the peace process between the two countries, saying the talks cannot be resumed unless Pakistan acts against terrorist groups operating from its soil and stops cross-border infiltration.

Addressing a joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament, Ms Patil also said that India would support initiatives in Sri Lanka which could lead to a permanent political solution of the conflict there and ensure that all Sri Lankan communities, especially the Tamils, felt secure and enjoyed equal rights so that they could lead a life of dignity and self-respect.

"India will make appropriate contribution to rehabilitate those affected by the conflict," she said.

President, Pratibha Patil is being led in a ceremonial procession to the Central Hall of the Parliament House to address the Joint Session of the Parliament today. Vice President Mohammed Hamid Ansari, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and the Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Pawan K. Bansal are also seen.
President, Pratibha Patil is being led in a ceremonial procession to the Central Hall of the Parliament House to address the Joint Session of the Parliament today. Vice President Mohammed Hamid Ansari, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and the Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Pawan K. Bansal are also seen.

This is the first session of Parliament after the recent General Elections in which the people of the country voted for a new Lok Sabha.

The 15th Lok Sabha began its maiden session on June 1, with the first two days reserved for oath-taking by the newly-elected members. The Rajya Sabha began its session today.

The President addresses a joint sitting of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha in the first session after a new Lok Sabha is elected and on the opening day of the first session each year, which is usually the Budget session. The address basically outlines the policies and programmes of the government of the day and unveils details of its agenda of governance.

"In Nepal and Bangladesh, where multi-party democracy has returned, India will work closely with both countries to continue expanding bilateral ties for mutual benefit. Government will strengthen our close and vibrant partnerships with Bhutan and Maldives and continue to assist in the reconstruction of Afghanistan," the President said.

Overall, the President said, the government's foreign policy would continue to pursue India's enlightened national interest, maintaining the strategic autonomy and independent decision-making that has been its hallmark.

"India has a vital interest in the stability and prosperity of our neighbours. The highest priority will be accorded to working with our friends in SAARC to promote stability, development and prosperity in the region. Government will sincerely work with our neighbours to ensure that outstanding issues are addressed and the full potential of our region is realized," she said.

Ms Patil said the momentum of improvement of India's relations with the major powers would be maintained.

"The transformation of our partnership with the United States of America will be taken forward. Our strategic partnership with Russia has grown over the years, and we will seek to further consolidate it. With countries of Europe and Japan my Government will continue the sustained diplomatic efforts, which have produced qualitative changes in our relations since 2004. The multi-faceted partnership with China will be expanded," she said.

The President said the government would continue to work with other developing nations.

"It will contribute to all efforts at peace in West Asia through the establishment of a viable Palestinian State at the earliest. The traditionally close ties with countries in the Gulf will be strengthened. The process of engagement with Africa re-energized with the first Indo-Africa Summit organized by my Government will be further expanded. The multi-dimensional partnerships with countries in South-East Asia and the Pacific as well as Central Asia and the Latin American region will be consolidated," she said.

Ms Patil said the Indian diaspora estimated at over twenty-five million across the world was an important economic, social and cultural force and her Government would deepen its engagement with it.

"Our ties and kinship with the diaspora make us acutely conscious of their well-being and to be sensitive to their concerns. As a responsible member of the international community, India will work with other countries in tackling issues of common concern such as international terrorism, the global economic crisis, climate change, energy security and reform of multilateral institutions to reflect contemporary realities," she said.

At the outset, Ms Patil told the new Lok Sabha members that they now had the mandate and the opportunity to translate the hopes and aspirations of the people of India into change in the everyday lives of the people.

"I urge you to use each day of the next five years in giving substance to those aspirations and in doing so, find greater meaning in your own lives," she said.

Ms Patil also congratulated the Lok Sabha for unanimously electing a woman and a Dalit as the Speaker. "This has enhanced the prestige of India's democratic traditions, that of the House and its members," she felt.

The President promised all help from the government to the cyclone affected people of West Bengal.

She also praised the Election Commission for the smooth and largely peaceful conduct of the Lok Sabha elections in April-May. "Democracy is one of the finest ideas that humankind has produced and every Indian election celebrates the freedom of choice that powers this idea," she remarked.

The President said the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government (2004-09) had set before the country a vision of an inclusive society and an inclusive economy. She said it had worked diligently towards translating this vision into policies and programmes.

"My Government sees the overwhelming mandate it has received as a vindication of the policy architecture of inclusion that it put in place. It is a mandate for inclusive growth, equitable development and a secular and plural India. My Government is determined to work harder and better to realize these goals," she said, referring to the second term in office won by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government.

Dr Singh, UPA Chairperson and Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Leader of the Lok Sabha Pranab Mukherjee, Leader of the Opposition Lal Krishna Advani, Union Ministers and nearly all the members of the two Houses were present in the Central Hall of Parliament to hear the President.

Ms Patil said a continuing priority of the Government would be to consolidate the ongoing flagship programmes for inclusion.

"This will require re-energising government and improving governance. It will require meeting the challenge of restoring economic growth, which is now hurt by the global economic slowdown, back to a higher growth path. High growth is necessary to provide the government the capacity to expand opportunities for employment. It is necessary to provide resources to increase outlays in education, health care and infrastructure to meet the needs of all regions and all people. My Government will ensure that the growth process is not only accelerated but also made socially and regionally more inclusive and equitable. The yearning of our people for inclusiveness - economic social and cultural -- and the rejection of the forces of divisiveness and intolerance that my Government spoke of in 2004 continues as both its inspiring vision and its unfinished business," she said.

Saying that the government was acutely conscious of the challenge of rising expectations of the people, the President said there would be ten broad areas of priority for the government for the next five years:

  • Internal security and preservation of communal harmony;
  • Stepping up of economic growth in agriculture, manufacturing and services;
  • Consolidation of the existing flagship programmes for employment, education, health, rural infrastructure, urban renewal and introduction of new flagship programmes for food security and skill development;
  • Concerted action for the welfare of women, youth, children, other backward classes, scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, minorities, the differently-abled and the elderly along with strengthened social protection;
  • Governance reform;
  • Creation and modernization of infrastructure and capacity addition in key sectors;
  • Prudent fiscal management;
  • Energy security and environment protection;
  • Constructive and creative engagement with the world and
  • Promotion of a culture of enterprise and innovation.

Ms Patil said the government would maintain utmost vigil in the area of internal security and pursue a policy of zero-tolerance towards terrorism, from whatever source it originates. She also promised stern measures to handle insurgency and left-wing extremism.

She said the government had already prepared a detailed plan to address internal security challenges to be implemented in a time-bound manner. The Multi-Agency Centre will be strengthened to ensure effective intelligence sharing and processing and Subsidiary Multi-Agency Centres will be activated in all States. The National Investigation Agency has become operational and will be empowered to handle terror-related offences. Central and State police forces and intelligence agencies will be expanded and fully equipped with the best technology. A national counter-terrorism centre will be established to take pro-active anti-terrorism measures. Special Forces and Quick Response Teams will be raised and deployed in vulnerable areas. Enhanced information and intelligence sharing on a real time basis, would be made possible by the creation of a net-centric information command structure, she said.

The President also said the government would actively pursue police reform and promote community policing to ensure the active participation of the citizenry in internal security.

At the same time government will continue to constructively engage with all groups that abjure violence in the Northeast, Jammu and Kashmir and other parts of the country, she said.

Ms Patil said communal harmony would be preserved at all costs, stressing that the mandate the government had received was unmistakable in that the people wanted the country's secular fabric to be protected. She said the government would seek early approval of the Bill introduced in Parliament for the prevention of communal violence.

The President said the armed forces would be fully enabled with modern technology to repel any threat from land, sea or air. She also said that the welfare of ex-servicemen would continue to be accorded high priority.

The Committee headed by the Cabinet Secretary, to look into the issue of One Rank One Pension has already commenced its work and it is expected to complete it by the end of June 2009, she said.

She said the Unique Identity Card scheme for each citizen would be implemented in three years overseen by an Empowered Group. This would serve the purpose of identification for development programmes and security.

The President dwelt at length on the previous government's efforts in the economic and social sectors and also spoke about the steps taken by it to respond to the global financial crisis.

"It is a matter of satisfaction that the Indian economy has not suffered the kind of slowdown that has been witnessed in almost every other country of the world," she said.

Ms Patil said the immediate priority must be to focus on management of the economy that will counter the effect of the global slowdown by a combination of sectoral and macro-level policies. She said the government would focus attention on sectors that are adversely affected, especially Small and Medium Enterprises, exports, textiles, commercial vehicles, infrastructure and housing.

"This must be accompanied by measures to achieve a countercyclical expansion in public investment in infrastructure sectors including public-private partnerships in these sectors. Financing the investment will be a critical constraint and my Government is determined to ensure that innovative steps are taken in this area, consistent with a medium-term strategy of prudent fiscal management," she said.

Ms Patil said India had benefited from large foreign investment flows in recent years and these, especially foreign direct investment, needed to be encouraged through an appropriate policy regime. There is also a need to augment resources in the banking and insurance sectors in order to permit them to serve the needs of society better, she said.

"Towards this end my Government will recapitalize the public sector banks to strengthen their financial position and also bring legislation to establish a regulator for the pension sector," she said.

The President said the momentum of public investment in agriculture and irrigation built up in the last five years will be further expanded and the three major instruments -- the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana, National Food Security Mission and the National Horticulture Mission -- strengthened.

She said the government's flagship programmes, which had moved the country towards inclusive development, would be consolidated in the next five years.

In particular, she said, the government would enlarge the scope of works permitted under the transformational National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), presently limited to unskilled manual work.

She said the opportunity for improving land productivity through the NREGA would be maximized through better convergence of NREGA with other programmes. To ensure transparency and public accountability, independent monitoring and grievance redressal mechanisms will be set up at the district level, she said.

The President said the National Rural Health Mission would be consolidated to make perceptible reduction in infant mortality and maternal mortality in the next five years. Vaccine producing institutes in the public sector will be revived to support the immunization programme.

She said the government would expand the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana to cover all families below the poverty line in the next five years. The nutrition delivery programme will be comprehensively revamped to bring it under the watch of panchayat institutions and move to provision of hot cooked meals in anganwadis, she said.

Ms Patil said quality education would be made a right through the enactment of the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Bill now under consideration of Parliament.

The Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan would universalize access to secondary education and the massive expansion in higher education through new institutions under implementation in the Eleventh Plan would enable the country to meet the challenge of education in full measure, she said.

She said the wide range of scholarships and educational loans introduced in the last five years for the needy and deserving students would be reviewed and strengthened further.

According to her, the suggestions given by the National Knowledge Commission would guide the formulation and implementation of the strategy in higher education.

The President said the National Literacy Mission would be recast as a National Mission for Female Literacy to make every woman in the country literate in the next five years.

Increased female literacy is expected to become a force multiplier for all social development programmes.

She said the remaining tasks of Bharat Nirman, launched five years ago as a time-bound business plan for rural infrastructure, would be completed in the second phase of the programme in the next five years.

The Indira Awas Yojana, which exceeded the original target of sixty lakh houses for 2004-09, will now take up double the target of rural housing to 1.2 crore houses in the next five years.

The Rural Water supply programme will be completed by 2011 and handed over to be managed by panchayats in the next Plan.

The rural telecommunication target will be set at reaching 40% rural teledensity in the next five years and expanding broadband coverage to connect every panchayat to a broadband network in three years. The scheme for Common Service Centres or e-kiosks will be suitably repositioned to be a network of panchayat-level Bharat Nirman Common Service Centres to provide government services to citizens in rural areas.

She said new targets would be set for rural electrification, irrigation and road connectivity.

The President said the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) would continue to focus on infrastructure, basic services and governance reform and increase support to cities to upgrade public transport.

She said more than 15 lakh houses were under construction for the urban poor but there was a need to focus urban housing programmes on the poor living in slums.

Ms Patil said the government proposed to introduce a Rajiv Awas Yojana for the slum dwellers and the urban poor on the lines of the Indira Awas Yojana for the rural poor. The schemes for affordable housing through partnership and the scheme for interest subsidy for urban housing would be dovetailed into the Rajiv Awas Yojana which would extend support under JNNURM to states that are willing to assign property rights to people living in slum areas.

"My Government's effort would be to create a slum free India in five years through the Rajiv Awas Yojana," she declared.

The President also said the government proposed to enact a new law -- the National Food Security Act -- that will provide a statutory basis for a framework which assures food security for all. Every family below the poverty line in rural as well as urban areas will be entitled, by law, to 25 kilograms of rice or wheat per month at Rs. 3 per kilogram. This legislation will also be used to bring about broader systemic reform in the public distribution system.

"Government is acutely conscious of its responsibilities to provide greater opportunities for women, youth, other backward classes, scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, minorities and the elderly as well as strengthen measures for social protection for categories with special vulnerabilities. Some concrete steps that are proposed to create equal opportunities for women are reservation to elected bodies at all levels, reservation in jobs and a National Mission on Female Literacy," she said.

Noting that over half of India's population is below 25 years of age, Ms Patil said the challenge was to invest in their education, employability and employment.

"India has the capacity to contribute to a fourth of the global work force if it invests in skill development of its youth. Education which provides employable skills holds the key for equal opportunities for Other Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Minorities," she said.

She said the government, besides making massive investments in education, would focus on the national skill development initiative that has commenced operation with the very ambitious goal of creation of 500 million skilled people by 2022 so that India realised its demographic dividend.

Ms Patil said the implementation of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act would be monitored to ensure that all title deeds are distributed by end of 2009.

She said the government would continue to accord the highest priority to the welfare of minorities.

"The Prime Minister's New 15 Point Programme for the Welfare of Minorities and the action taken on the recommendations of the Sachar Committee have, to some extent, succeeded in ensuring an equitable share for the minorities in government resources, jobs and plans. Steps under way would be consolidated further. Government would strive to strengthen and modernize the administration of wakfs, reform the management of Haj operations and set up an Equal Opportunity Commission," she said.

She said the government would endeavour to reintroduce and enact the Amendment Bill to the Land Acquisition Act and the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill in the coming budget session of Parliament. These bills were aimed at protecting farmers and others dependent on farming from unfair displacement. They were placed before Parliament but could not be carried through.

The President said the government, in its previous term, had considerably enhanced provisions for social security through old age pension for all people below the poverty line and above 65 years of age, all handicapped people and all widows above the age of forty.

"It will examine extending social protection to other persons at special risk. Social security schemes for other occupations like landless labour, weavers, fisherfolk, toddy tappers, leather workers, plantation labour, construction labour, mine workers and beedi workers will be appropriately expanded," she said.

Some of the other topics she spoke about included reform of governance for effective delivery of public service.

She said the government would initiate steps in the following measures within the next 100 days:

  • Early passage of the Women's Reservation Bill in Parliament providing for one-third reservation to women in State legislatures and in Parliament;
  • Constitutional amendment to provide 50 percent reservation for women in panchayats and urban local bodies. Women suffer multiple deprivations of class, caste and gender and enhancing reservation in panchayats and urban local bodies will lead to more women entering the public sphere;
  • Concerted effort to increase representation of women in central government jobs;
  • A National Mission on Empowerment of Women for implementation of women-centric programmes in a mission mode to achieve better coordination;
  • A voluntary national youth corps which could take up creative social action around the river cleaning and beautification programme beginning with the river Ganga;
  • Restructuring the Backward Regions Grant Fund, which overlaps with other development investment, to focus on decentralized planning and capacity building of elected panchayat representatives. The next three years would be devoted to training panchayat raj functionaries in administering flagship programmes;
  • A public data policy to place all information covering non-strategic areas in the public domain. It would help citizens to challenge the data and engage directly in governance reform;
  • Increasing transparency and public accountability of NREGA by enforcing social audit and ensuring grievance redressal by setting up district level ombudsman;
  • Strengthening Right to Information by suitably amending the law to provide for disclosure by government in all non-strategic areas;
  • Strengthening public accountability of flagship programmes by the creation of an Independent Evaluation Office at an arm's distance from the government catalysed by the Planning Commission. It would work on a network model by collaborating with leading social science research organizations and concurrently evaluate the impact of flagship programmes and place it in the public domain;
  • Establishing mechanisms for performance monitoring and performance evaluation in government on a regular basis;
  • Five Annual Reports to be presented by government as Reports to the People on Education, Health, Employment, Environment and Infrastructure to generate a national debate;
  • Facilitating a Voluntary Technical Corps of professionals in all urban areas through JNNURM to support city development activities;
  • Enabling non government organisations in the area of development action seeking government support through a web-based transaction on a government portal in which the status of the application will be transparently monitorable;
  • Provision of scholarships and social security schemes through accounts in post offices and banks and phased transition to smart cards;
  • Revamping of banks and post offices to become outreach units for financial inclusion complemented by business correspondents aided by technology;
  • Electronic governance through Bharat Nirman common service centres in all panchayats in the next three years;
  • A model Public Services Law, that covers functionaries providing important social services like education, health, rural development etc. and commits them to their duties, will be drawn up in consultation with states;
  • A National Council for Human Resources in Health as an overarching regulatory body for the health sector to reform the current regulatory framework and enhance supply of skilled personnel;
  • A National Council for Higher Education as recommended by the Yashpal Committee and the National Knowledge Commission to bring in reform of regulatory institutions;
  • Develop a "brain gain" policy to attract talent from all over the world into the 14 universities proposed in the 11th plan to position them as "Innovation Universities";
  • A roadmap for judicial reform to be outlined in six months and implemented in a time-bound manner;
  • Targeted identification cards would subsume and replace omnibus Below Poverty Line (BPL) list. NREGA has a job card and the proposed Food Security Act would also create a new card. Identification of beneficiaries for other programmes which currently use the omnibus BPL list would improve identification based on programme objectives with the common underlying principle that all identification of beneficiaries will be done through gram sabhas and urban local bodies and the list placed in the public domain to be open to challenge;
  • A Delivery Monitoring Unit in the Prime Minister's Office to monitor flagship programmes and iconic projects and report on their status publicly;
  • Suitably institutionalized quarterly reporting on Flagship programmes as "Bharat Nirman Quarterly Reports" where Ministers would publicly report on progress through the media.

The President promised that bottlenecks and delays in implementation of infrastructure projects because of policies and procedures, especially in railways, power, highways, ports, airports and rural telecom would be systematically removed.

She said the regulatory and legal framework of public-private partnerships (PPPs) would be made more investment friendly. She said the government would continue its special emphasis on infrastructure development in the North-East and Jammu and Kashmir and enhance connectivity to these regions.

She said the government would develop a roadmap for listing and people-ownership of public sector undertakings while ensuring that government equity does not fall below 51 per cent.

Ms Patil said the government was firmly committed to maintaining high growth with low inflation, particularly in relation to prices of essential agricultural and industrial commodities.

"It will steadfastly observe fiscal responsibility so that the ability of the Centre to invest in essential social and economic infrastructure is continuously enhanced. This will require that all subsidies reach only the truly needy and poor sections of our society. A national consensus will be created on this issue and necessary policy changes implemented," she said.

She said the roadmap for moving towards a Goods and Services Tax would be vigorously pursued.

"My Government is fully seized of the issue of illegal money of Indian citizens outside the country in secret bank accounts. It will vigorously pursue all necessary steps in coordination with the countries concerned," she said.

Promising an integrated energy policy, she said the effort would be to see that at least 13,000 MW of generating capacity was added each year through a mix of sources -coal, hydel, nuclear and renewables. Village and rural household electrification and reduction in aggregate technical and commercial losses will continue to be given the highest priority. Competitiveness and efficiency in the power sector will be enhanced through time-bound measures, including operationalising the provision of open access, she said.

The President said the pace of oil and gas exploration would be intensified and India's oil diplomacy aggressively pursued. Reforms in the coal sector, for which a detailed blueprint has been prepared, will be pursued with urgency. The international civil nuclear agreements will be operationalised with various countries even as domestic sources of uranium are exploited and work continues on the indigenously designed fast breeder and thorium reactors, she said.

She said that the government would ensure that India's space programme, which had achieved wide recognition, continued to bring rich dividends to society in agriculture, tele-medicine, tele-education and by providing information to rural knowledge centres, besides contributing to telecommunication, television broadcasting and weather forecasting. Several innovative initiatives commenced by government in the science and technology sector in the last five years and now under implementation will be further strengthened, she said.

Ms Patil said the government was proactively addressing issues of climate change through eight national missions. Of these the National Solar Mission, the National Water Mission, the National Mission on Energy Efficiency, the National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture and the National Mission on Sustainable Habitat will be launched by the end of this year. The National Ganga River Basin Authority, set up recently, will evolve a new action plan for cleaning and beautifying the river in partnership with the basin states.

"Honourable Members, my Government believes that in the knowledge society in which we live today, creativity, innovation and enterprise hold the key to people and nations realizing their potential. The 'dreary desert sand of dead habit' must be left behind. Our young people are tearing down the narrow domestic walls of religion, region, language, caste, and gender that confine them. The nation must invest in their hope. My Government will ensure that its policies for education and science and technology are imbued with a spirit of innovation so that the creativity of a billion people is unleashed. The next ten years would be dedicated as a Decade of Innovation. It may be a symbolic gesture but an important gesture to drive home the need to be innovative in finding solutions to our many challenges. India's young population is naturally restless and wants to see change quickly. My Government carries the weight of their dreams. Together let us dedicate ourselves to making each day of the next five years, a day closer to the realization of their dreams," the President added.

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Meira Kumar elected Lok Sabha Speaker unopposed

Meira Kumar was elected on Wednesday unopposed as the Speaker of the 15th Lok Sabha after emerging as the consensus candidate of the ruling UPA led by her party Congress as well as the opposition BJP.

Former Union Minister Meira Kumar was today elected unopposed as the Speaker of the 15th Lok Sabha after emerging as the consensus candidate of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) led by her party Congress as well as the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The Speaker, Lok Sabha, Meira Kumar briefing the media, at Parliament House today.
The Speaker, Lok Sabha, Meira Kumar briefing the media, at Parliament House today.

Ms Kumar, 64, is the first woman to be elected to the coveted position and the second Dalit leader, after the late G M C Balayogi, to occupy the chair.

The election of the Speaker was taken up soon after all the newly-elected members of the House had finished taking the oath of affirmation. The first two days of the maiden session of the new Lok Sabha and the early part of today were reserved for the new members to take oath.

Another former Union Minister, Mr Karia Munda of the BJP, is set to become the Deputy Speaker after the UPA offered the post to the opposition party as per convention. The election for the Deputy Speaker's position will be held later, but Mr Munda is also expected to be elected unopposed.

Mr Manikrao Gavit, 75, a Congress MP and the seniormost member of the House, conducted the proceedings of the House as pro tem Speaker till the new Speaker was elected.

Congress President and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi moved a motion proposing that Ms Kumar be elected as Speaker of the House, which was seconded by Finance Minister and Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee.

A similar proposal was then moved by Leader of the Opposition Lal Krishna Advani and seconded by Deputy Opposition Leader Sushma Swaraj, both of the BJP.

Motions proposing Ms Kumar's name for the post were also moved by, among others, Ms Mamata Banerjee of the Trinamool Congress, Mr T R Baalu of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party, Mr Sharad Yadav of the Janata Dal (U), Mr Sharad Pawar of the Nationalist Congress Party, Dr Farooq Abdullah of the National Conference, Mr Lalu Prasad Yadav of the Rashtriya Janata Dal and Mr E Ahamed of the Indian Union Muslim League.

The House adopted the motions with a voice vote, after which Mr Gavit declared her elected as Speaker.

Immediately afterwards, Prime Miniser Manmohan Singh, Mr Mukherjee and Mr Advani escorted Ms Kumar to the Speaker's chair as per tradition.

Dr Singh said that Ms Kumar's election to the august office was, in many ways, a historic occasion in that it was the first time a woman has been elected to the post, who also happens to be from the Dalit community.
The Speaker, Lok Sabha, Meira Kumar with the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, L K Advani, the Union Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, the Chairperson, UPA, Sonia Gandhi and other dignitaries at Parliament House today.
The Speaker, Lok Sabha, Meira Kumar with the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, L K Advani, the Union Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, the Chairperson, UPA, Sonia Gandhi and other dignitaries at Parliament House today.

He said that, in electing her, the House was paying tribute to all women in India for their great services and contributions to the nation's life.

The Prime Minister recalled his association with Ms Kumar's father, former Deputy Prime Minister Jagjivan Ram, and said she was the embodiment of many of his qualities.

He also said that Ms Kumar had a distinguished record of service to the country as a diplomat, as a member of Parliament and as a Union Minister. "The knowledge and experience will stand you in good stead," he said.

He also felt that Ms Kumar's charm, grace and tact would help her in handling frayed tempers in the House.

Mr Mukherjee hoped the 15th Lok Sabha would be see fewer obstructions by members and more debates and discussions. He said there could be divergence of views but these must be discussed and debated. He also said that Ms Kumar had been elected to a post that had been held by great personalities in the past, all of whom had set a great record of impartiality and correct decisions.

Mr Advani recalled his association with the late Jagjivan Ram, when they were both ministers in the Morarji Desai government, and said that his administrative skills had impressed everyone.

Others who felicitated Ms Kumar included Mr Basudev Acharia of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav, Mr Baalu, Mr Pawar, Mr Sharad Yadav, Mr Gurudas Dasgupta of the Communist Party of India and Mr Lalu Prasad Yadav.

Ms Kumar, who was sworn in as a Cabinet Minister on May 22 and had taken over the portfolio of Water Resources last Friday, resigned from the Union Council of Ministers on Sunday.

Ms Kumar is a former officer of the Indian Foreign Service (IFS). She had served as the Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment in the previous UPA government.

She has a Master's degree in English and a degree in Law, as well as an advanced diploma in Spanish. This is her fifth term in the Lok Sabha. She has served on various parliamentary committees and has been a General Secretary of the Congress party and a member of its working committee.

She joined the IFS in 1973 and served in Indian missions in Madrid and London as well as in the Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi before resigning from the service in 1985 to join politics.

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Meira Kumar to be LS Speaker, Karia Munda Deputy Speaker

Former Union Minister Meira Kumar filed her nomination papers Tuesday for the post of Lok Sabha Speaker as she emerged as the consensus candidate of the ruling UPA and the opposition BJP for the coveted post.

Former Union Minister Meira Kumar today filed her nomination papers for the post of Lok Sabha Speaker as she emerged as the consensus candidate of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for the coveted post.

Another former Union Minister, Mr Karia Munda of the BJP, is set to become the Deputy Speaker. Both are expected to be elected unopposed.

The election for the Speaker's post is scheduled to be held tomorrow after newly-elected members of the House took the oaths of affirmation on the first two days of the maiden session of the 15th Lok Sabha yesterday and today.

Mr Manikrao Gavit, 75, a Congress MP and the seniormost member of the House, is presiding over the proceedings as pro tem Speaker till a new Speaker is elected.

Ms Kumar was accompanied by Leader of the House and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee of the Congress, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), National Conference (NC) leader and Union Minister Farooq Abdullah and others when she submitted her papers to Lok Sabha Secretary General P D T Achary.

When the Congress had decided on Ms Kumar as its candidate for the Speaker's post last Saturday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had rung up BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani offering the main opposition part the Deputy Speaker's position, as per convention.

The BJP chose Mr Munda as its candidate for the post at a meeting of its Parliamentary Party this morning, the party's General Secretary Arun Jaitley told reporters

In all, 13 sets of nomination papers were filed for Ms Kumar's candidature, including one signed by UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi as the proposer and Mr Mukherjee as the seconder. Another set had Mr Advani as the proposer and BJP Deputy Leader in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj as the seconder. Leaders of the NCP, the NC, the Samajwadi Party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Indian Union Muslim League were amongst those who signed her nomination papers.

Mr Munda, 75, has an M.A. degree from the Ranchi University in Jharkhand. He has been elected to the Lok Sabha from Jharkhand's Khunti constituency, which is reserved for Scheduled Tribes. This is his seventh term in the Lower House of Parliament.

He had served as Minister of State for Steel and Mines in the Morarji Desai government in 1977-79. He worked as Union Minister for Agro and Rural Industries from September, 2001 to January, 2003 and later as the Coal Minister under then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Ms Kumar, who was sworn in as a Cabinet Minister on May 22 and had taken over the portfolio of Water Resources last Friday, resigned from the Union Council of Ministers on Sunday.

When Ms Kumar, 64, is elected, she will become the first woman to be hold the Lok Sabha Speaker's post.

Ms Kumar, the daughter of former Deputy Prime Minister Jagjivan Ram, is a prominent Dalit face of the Congress and a former officer of the Indian Foreign Service (IFS). She had served as the Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment in the previous UPA government.

She has a Master's degree in English and a degree in Law, as well as an advanced diploma in Spanish. This is her fifth term in the Lok Sabha. She has served on various parliamentary committees and has been a General Secretary of the Congress party and a member of its working committee.

She joined the IFS in 1973 and served in Indian missions in Madrid and London as well as in the Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi before resigning from the service in 1985 to join politics.

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Lok Sabha session begins, new MPs take oath

The 15th Lok Sabha began its first session today, with the newly-elected members, led by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Leader of Opposition Lal Krishna Advani, taking the oath of affirmation.

The 15th Lok Sabha, constituted after the recent General Elections, began its first session today, with the newly-elected members, led by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Leader of Opposition Lal Krishna Advani, taking the oath of affirmation.
President Pratibha Patil administering the oath of the office of Pro tem Speaker to Manikrao Gavit at Rashtrapati Bhavan today.
President Pratibha Patil administering the oath of the office of Pro tem Speaker to Manikrao Gavit at Rashtrapati Bhavan today.

Mr Manikrao Gavit, 75, a Congress MP and the seniormost member of the House, presided over the proceedings as pro tem Speaker.

Earlier this morning, Mr Gavit was sworn in as the pro tem Speaker by President Pratibha Patil at a ceremony in Rashtrapati Bhavan. Vice-President M Hamid Ansari and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh were amongst those present at the function.

Mr Gavit is a nine-time member of the House and has experience of more than 27 years. He was Minister of State for Home in the previous UPA government.

In the House, Lok Sabha Secretary General P D T Achary tabled the list of elected members, after which Mr Gavit informed the members that the President had nominated senior MPs Basudeb Achariya (CPIM), Arjun Charan Sethi (BJD), Biren Singh Engti (Congress) and Sumitra Mahajan (BJP) to help him in presiding over the proceedings.

Mr Mukherjee and Mr Advani were the first two to take oath and sign the Roll of Members.

Dr Singh, a Rajya Sabha member, was present in the Lok Sabha at the start of the day's proceedings. They were followed by Congress President and UPA Chairperson and Ms Mahajan.

Among those present in the Speaker's Gallery to watch the proceedings were Ms Gandhi's daughter Priyanka Vadra and her husband Robert Vadra.

Mr Gavit informed the House that Samajwadi Party (SP) member Akhilesh Yadav, the son of the party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, had resigned from his Firozabad seat and that the resignation had been accepted. Mr Yadav had won from two seats, the second being Kannauj, which he has decided to retain.

The first two days of the session have been reserved for the swearing-in of the new members.
(L to R) Minister of State for PMO and Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions Prithviraj Chavan, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, Vice President Mohammed Hamid Ansari, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Pawan Kumar Bansal and other dignitaries at the swearing-in ceremony of Pro tem Speaker, at Rashtrapati Bhavan today.
(L to R) Minister of State for PMO and Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions Prithviraj Chavan, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, Vice President Mohammed Hamid Ansari, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Pawan Kumar Bansal and other dignitaries at the swearing-in ceremony of Pro tem Speaker, at Rashtrapati Bhavan today.

On June 3, the members will elect the new Speaker. The Congress has decided to nominate Ms Meira Kumar, who had only last Friday taken over as the Minister of Water Resources, for the post. While the party is yet to make a formal announcement on her candidature, Ms Kumar herself confirmed it to reporters on her way into the House this morning.

Ms Kumar's election to the post is now a foregone conclusion, given the strength that the ruling UPA commands in the House. In all probability, she will be elected unopposed. The UPA has already offered the Deputy Speaker's post to the BJP, the main opposition party, as per convention.

Ms Kumar resigned from the Council of Ministers yesterday and her resignation has been accepted by the President.
Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh arrives at the Parliament to attend the 1st Session of 15th Lok Sabha today. Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Pawan Kumar Bansal, Minister of State, PMO and Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions, Prithviraj Chavan and Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs and Planning, V. Narayanasamy are also seen.
Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh arrives at the Parliament to attend the 1st Session of 15th Lok Sabha today. Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Pawan Kumar Bansal, Minister of State, PMO and Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions, Prithviraj Chavan and Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs and Planning, V. Narayanasamy are also seen.

On June 4, the President will address a joint sitting of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, when she will unveil the UPA government's programmes and policies for its second straight five-year term in office.

In the remaining days of the session till June 9, the two Houses will take up discussion on and pass the motion of thanks to the President for her address.

Parliament will begin another session from the end of June when the UPA government will present the Union Budget for 2009-10. The previous government had presented only an interim budget and taken a vote on account till July 31, by when the budget must be passed.

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Sibal gets HRD, Commerce to Sharma, Road Transport and Highways for Kamal Nath

Mr Kapil Sibal was today named as India's new Minister for Human Resource Development (HRD), while Mr Anand Sharma has been appointed as the new Minister for Commerce.

Mr Kapil Sibal was today named as India's new Minister for Human Resource Development (HRD), while Mr Anand Sharma been appointed as the new Minister for Commerce.

Mr Kamal Nath, who held Commerce in the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, has been given Road Transport and Highways, an indicator of the importance Prime Minister Manmohan Singh attaches to this sector.
Kapil Sibal, HRD
Kapil Sibal
Human Resource Development
Anand Sharma, Commerce
Anand Sharma
Commerce
Kamal Nath, Road Transport and Highways
Kamal Nath
Road Transport and Highways

An official statement from the Prime Minister's Office said Dr Singh had recommended to the President that Mr Virbhadra Singh be given charge of Steel, Mr Vilasrao Deshmukh be allocated Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises and Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad be put in charge of Health and Family Welfare.
Virbhadra Singh, Steel
Virbhadra Singh
Steel
Vilasrao Deshmukh, Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises
Vilasrao Deshmukh
Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises
Ghulam Nabi Azad, Health and Family Welfare
Ghulam Nabi Azad
Health and Family Welfare

Mr Sushil Kumar Shinde will continue to handle Power, the portfolio he had in the previous UPA government. Similarly, Mr S Jaipal Reddy will continue to look after Urban Development and Mr Vayalar Ravi will remain in charge of Overseas Indian Affairs.
Sushilkumar Shinde, Power
Sushilkumar Shinde
Power
Jaipal Reddy, Urban Development
Jaipal Reddy
Urban Development
Vayalar Ravi, Overseas Indian Affairs
Vayalar Ravi
Overseas Indian Affairs

Mr Veerappa Moily has been named as the new Minister of Law and Justice while Dr Farooq Abdullah has been given New and Renewable Energy.

Mrs Meira Kumar will be the new Minister of Water Resources, while Mr Dayanidhi Maran will handle Textiles. Mr A Raja will continue to look after Communications and Information Technology while Mrs Ambika Soni becomes the new Minister for Information and Broadcasting. Mr Murli Deora will retain Petroleum and Natural Gas. Mr M K Azhagiri gets Chemicals and Fertilisers.
Veerappa Moily, Law and Justice
Veerappa Moily
Law and Justice
Dr. Farooq Abdullah, New and Renewable Energy
Dr. Farooq Abdullah
New and Renewable Energy
Meira Kumar, Water Resources
Meira Kumar
Water Resources

Dr Singh has recommended Labour and Employment for Mr Mallikarjun Kharge, Mines and Development of North Eastern Region for Mr B K Handique, Rural Development and Panchayati Raj for Mr C P Joshi, Shipping for Mr G K Vasan and Parliamentary Affairs for Mr Pavan Kumar Bansal.

The Ministry of Tourism will go to Ms Selja, who will also continue to look after Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, the portfolio she had in the previous ministry as Minister of State (Independent Charge).

Similarly, Dr M S Gill will continue to look after Youth Affairs and Sports as Cabinet Minister and Mr Subodh Kant Sahay has been elevated in his old ministry of Food Processing Industries.

Mr Mukul Wasnik gets Social Justice and Empowerment, while Mr Kantilal Bhuria has been given Tribal Affairs.

Dr Singh had taken oath of office and secrecy along with 19 Cabinet Ministers last Friday after the just-concluded elections to the Lok Sabha gave the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) a clear and decisive mandate.

Thanks to wrangling between the Congress and some of the allies, especially the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), over the number of ministerial berths and the portfolios for them, the initial lot of 19 ministers were mostly from the Congress. The only two ministers from other parties sworn in on Friday were Mr Sharad Pawar of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Ms Mamata Banerjee of the Trinamool Congress (TC).

The Prime Minister was also able to allocate portfolios to only six of those 19 ministries, pending an understanding on the issue with the allies. Accordingly, Mr Pranab Mukherjee got Finance, Mr P Chidamabaram was made Home Minister again and Mr S M Krishna became the new External Affairs Minister.

Mr Pawar continues as Minister for Agriculture, Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution while Ms Banerjee got the coveted Railways Ministry. Mr A K Antony continued as Defence Minister.

Today's allocation of portfolios takes care of the assignments of the 13 remaining ministers sworn in on Friday as well as the 59 ministes brought in today. They include 14 Cabinet Ministers, seven Ministers of State with Independent Charge and 38 Ministers of State. With today's expansion, the strength of the Manmohan Singh ministry has gone up to 79, just two short of legally permissible limit of 81. The ministry now has 33 Cabinet Ministers, seven Ministers of State with Independent Charge and 38 Ministers of State.

Apart from the Prime Minister, the swearing-in ceremony was attended by, among others, Vice-President M Hamid Ansari, Congress President and ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, several of the cabinet ministers sworn in last week, former Home Minister Shivraj Patil, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi.

Cabinet Ministers who took oath on Friday and got their portfolios today are Mr Azad, Mr Moily, Mr Shinde, Mr Reddy, Mr Kamal Nath, Mr Ravi, Mrs Meira Kumar, Mr Deora, Mr Sibal, Ms Soni, Mr Handique, Mr Sharma and Mr Joshi.

Mr Sharma and Mr Handique were ministers of state in the previous ministry and have been elevated to cabinet rank in the new government.

Among the Ministers of State (Independent Charge), Mr Praful Patel will continue to look after Civil Aviation while Mr Prithviraj Chavan has been given Science and Technology and Earth Sciences. Mr Chavan will also continue as Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office. He will also handle Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions as well as Parliamentary Affairs.

Mr Sriprakash Jaiswal will look after Coal as well as Statistics and Programme Implementation, while Mr Salman Khursheed has been given charge of Corporate Affairs as well as Minority Affairs.

Mr Dinsha J Patel will handle Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, while Ms Krishna Tirath has got Women and Child Development.

Mr Jairam Ramesh has got independent charge of the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

Among the Ministers of State, former UN Under Secretary General Shashi Tharoor and Ms Preneet Kaur have been given External Affairs.

The following are the portfolios of the Ministers of State:

1. Srikant Jena - Chemicals and Fertilizers
2. E. Ahamed - Railways
3. Mullappally Ramachandran - Home Affairs
4. V. Narayansamy - Planning, Parliamentary Affairs
5. Jyotiraditya Scindia - Commerce and Industry
6. D. Purandeswari - Human Resource Development
7. K.H. Muniyappa - Railways
8. Ajay Maken - Home Affairs
9. Panabaka Lakshmi - Textiles
10.Namo Narain Meena - Finance
11. M.M. Pallam Raju - Defence
12. Saugata Ray - Urban Development
13. S.S. Palanimanickam - Finance
14. Jitin Prasad - Petroleum and Natural Gas
15. A. Sai Prathap - Steel
16. Preneet Kaur - External Affairs
17. Gurudas Kamat - Communications and Information Technology
18. Harish Rawat - Labour and Employment
19. K.V. Thomas - Agriculture, Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution
20. Bharatsinh Solanki - Power
21. Mahadev S. Khandela - Road Transport and Highways
22. Dinesh Trivedi - Health and Family Welfare
23. Sisir Adhikari - Rural Development
24. Sultan Ahmed - Tourism
25. Mukul Roy - Shipping
26. Mohan Jatua - Information and Broadcasting
27. D. Napoleon - Social Justice and Empowerment
28. S. Jagathrakshakan - Information and Broadcasting
29. S. Gandhiselvan - Health and Family Welfare
30. Tusharbhai Chaudhary - Tribal Affairs
31. Sachin Pilot - Communications and Information Technology
32. Arun Yadav - Youth Affairs and Sports
33. Pratik Prakashbapu Patil - Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises
34. R.P.N. Singh - Road Transport and Highways
35. Shashi Tharoor - External Affairs
36. Vincent Pala - Water Resources
37. Pradeep Jain - Rural Development
38. Agatha Sangma - Rural Development

Of the new Cabinet Ministers sworn in today, Mr Deshmukh is a former Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Dr Abdullah has been Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir and Mr Virbhadra Singh that of Himachal Pradesh.

Three nominees of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam---former ministers Dayanidhi Maran and A Raja---and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi's son M K Azhagiri were amongst those sworn in as Cabinet Ministers.

Ms Selja, Mr Sahay, Mr Bansal, Mr Gill, Mr Bhuria and Mr Vasan were Ministers of State in the previous UPA government and find themselves elevated to Cabinet rank this time. Mr Wasnik is making a comeback to the Union Ministry after nearly 12 years, having served as Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports and for Parliamentary Affairs in 1993-96 in the Narasimha Rao government.

Mr Kharge has served as Minister in the Karnataka government, handling various ministries, and also been president of the Karnataka unit of the Congress.

Of the Ministers of State with Independent Charge, Mr Praful Patel had the same rank in the previous government. Mr Chavan, Mr Jaiswal, Mr Dinsha Patel and Mr Jairam Ramesh were Ministers of State in the earlier government and have been given independent charge this time. Mr Salman Khursheed has served as Minister of State for External Affairs and also held other portfolions in the 1990s. Ms Tirath, elected from Delhi, is making her debut in the Union Council of Ministers.

Mr Scindia and Mr Prasada, part of the young brigade in the Congress, were ministers of state in the previous UPA government. Mr Pilot, another young MP, is the son of the late Congress leader Rajesh Pilot.

Mr Ahamed, Mrs Purandeswari, Mrs Panabaka Laksmi, Mr Maken, Mr Meena and Mr Pallam Raju were part of the previous Manmohan Singh Ministry.

Mr Jena, Mr Ramachandran and Prof Thomas have served in the Union Government before.

Mr Kamat is a former president of the Mumbai Regional Congress Committee and former Youth Congress chief, while Ms Agatha Sangma is the daughter of former Lok Sabha Speaker Purno Sangma.

The expansion of the ministry was widely expected to be carried out on Tuesday but it was put off, apparently because, among other things, leaders of the Trinamool Congress (TC), a key ally of the Congress in the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA), were busy with relief operations in cyclone-hit West Bengal.

Sources said that, apart from this, the UPA leadership also needed more time to reconcile the various claims for ministerial berths, both from within the Congress and from the allies.

Earlier this week, the Congress and the DMK sorted out differences between them on the number of ministerial berths and the portfolios to be allotted to the latter.

The Congress ended up with 206 seats in the Lok Sabha in the elections. The next largest party in the UPA is the TC with 19 seats, followed by the DMK with 18. In all, the UPA has 274 seats in the Lok Sabha. The number of MPs supporting it, including those who have pledged support from the outside, is 322.

Those extending support from outside include Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the Samajwadi Party (SP) of Mulayam Singh Yadav and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) of Lalu Prasad Yadav.

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Manmohan Singh inducts 59 new ministers

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Thursday expanded his Council of Ministers by inducting 59 new ministers, including former Chief Ministers Vilasrao Deshmukh, Farooq Abdullah and Virbhadra Singh, taking the strength of his ministry to 79.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today expanded his Council of Ministers by inducting 59 new ministers, including former Chief Ministers Vilasrao Deshmukh, Farooq Abdullah and Virbhadra Singh, taking the strength of his ministry to 79.
President Pratibha Patil, Vice President Mohammed Hamid Ansari and Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh alongwith the Union Council of Ministers after the Swearing-in Ceremony, at Rashtrapati Bhavan, in New Delhi today.
President Pratibha Patil, Vice President Mohammed Hamid Ansari and Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh alongwith the Union Council of Ministers after the Swearing-in Ceremony, at Rashtrapati Bhavan, in New Delhi today.

The new ministers were administered the oaths of office and secrecy by President Pratibha Patil at a ceremony in Rashtrapati Bhavan.

The new ministers include 14 Cabinet Ministers, seven Ministers of State with Independent Charge and 38 Ministers of State.

Dr Singh had been sworn in for his second consecutive five-year term, along with 19 Cabinet Ministers, last Friday. With today's expansion, the strength of the Union Council of Ministers has gone up to 79, including 33 Cabinet Ministers, seven Ministers of State with Independent Charge and 38 Ministers of State. The upper limit on the number of ministers at the Centre is 81 under the law

Apart from the Prime Minister, the ceremony was attended by, among others, Vice-President M Hamid Ansari, Congress President and ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, several of the cabinet ministers sworn in last week, former Home Minister Shivraj Patil, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi.
Virbhadra Singh
Virbhadra Singh
Vilasrao Deshmukh
Vilasrao Deshmukh
Dr. Farooq Abdullah
Dr. Farooq Abdullah
Dayanidhi Maran
Dayanidhi Maran
A Raja
A Raja
Mallikarjun Kharge
Mallikarjun Kharge
Kumari Selja
Ms. Selja
Subodh Kant Sahay
Subodh Kant Sahay
Dr. M S Gill
Dr. M S Gill
G K Vasan
G K Vasan
Pawan Kumar Bansal
Pawan Kumar Bansal
Mukul Wasnik
Mukul Wasnik
Kantilal Bhuria
Kantilal Bhuria
M K Azhagiri
M K Azhagiri
Praful Patel
Praful Patel
Prithviraj Chauhan
Prithviraj Chauhan
Shriprakash Jaiswal
Shriprakash Jaiswal
Salman Khursheed
Salman Khursheed
Dinsha Patel
Dinsha Patel
Jairam Ramesh
Jairam Ramesh
Krishna Tirath
Krishna Tirath
E Ahamed
E Ahamed
V Narayanswamy
V Narayanswamy
Srikant Jena
Srikant Jena
Mullappally Ramachandran
Mullappally Ramachandran
D Purandeswari
D Purandeswari
Panabaka Lakshmi
Panabaka Lakshmi
Ajay Maken
Ajay Maken
K H Muniyappa
K H Muniyappa
Namo Narain Meena
Namo Narain Meena
Jyotiraditya Scindia
Jyotiraditya Scindia
Jitin Prasada
Jitin Prasada
Sai Prathap Annayyagari
Sai Prathap Annayyagari
Gurudas Kamat
Gurudas Kamat
M M Pallam Raju
M M Pallam Raju
Harish Rawat
Harish Rawat
K V Thomas
K V Thomas
Dinesh Trivedi
Dinesh Trivedi
Mukul Roy
Mukul Roy
S S Palanimanickam
S S Palanimanickam
Preneet Kaur
Preneet Kaur
Sachin Pilot
Sachin Pilot
Shashi Tharoor
Shashi Tharoor
Bharatsinh Solanki
Bharatsinh Solanki
Tushar Chaudhary
Tushar Chaudhary
Arun Yadav
Arun Yadav
Prateek Patil
Prateek Patil
Bharatsinh Solanki
Agatha Sangma

The following is the list of ministers sworn in today:

Cabinet Ministers:

1. Mr Virbhadra Singh
2. Mr Vilasrao Deshmukh
3. Dr. Farooq Abdullah
4. Mr Dayanidhi Maran
5. Mr A Raja
6. Mr Mallikarjun Kharge
7. Ms Selja
8. Mr Subodh Kant Sahay
9. Dr M S Gill
10. Mr G K Vasan
11. Mr Pawan Kumar Bansal
12. Mr Mukul Wasnik
13. Mr Kantilal Bhuria
14. Mr M K Azhagiri

Ministers of State with Independent Charge:

1. Mr Praful Patel
2. Mr Prithviraj Chauhan
3. Mr Sriprakash Jaiswal
4. Mr Salman Khursheed
5. Mr Dinsha Patel
6. Mr Jairam Ramesh
7. Mrs Krishna Tirath

Ministers of State:

1. Mr E Ahamed
2. Mr V Narayanasamy
3. Mr Srikant Jena
4. Mr Mullappally Ramachandran
5. Mrs D Purandeswari
6. Mrs Panabaka Lakshmi
7. Mr Ajay Maken
8. Mr K H Muniyappa
9. Mr Namo Narain Meena
10. Mr Jyotiraditya Scindia
11. Mr Jitin Prasad
12. Mr A Sai Prathap
13. Mr Gurudas Kamat
14. Mr M M Pallam Raju
15. Mr Mahadev Khandela
16. Mr Harish Rawat
17. Prof. K V Thomas
18. Mr Saugata Ray
19. Mr Dinesh Trivedi
20. Mr Sisir Adhikari
21. Mr Sultan Ahmed
22. Mr Mukul Roy
23. Mr Mohan Jatua
24. Mr S S Palanimanickam
25. Mr D Napoleon
26. Dr. S Jagathrakshakan
27. Mr S Gandhiselvan
28. Mrs Preneet Kaur
29. Mr Sachin Pilot
30. Mr Shashi Tharoor
31. Mr Bharatsinh Solanki
32. Mr Tusharbhai Chaudhary
33. Mr Arun Yadav
34. Mr Prateek Prakashbapu Patil
35. Mr R P N Singh
36. Mr Vincent Pala
37. Mr Pradeep Jain
38. Ms. Agatha Sangma

Only six of the 19 ministers sworn in on Friday have so far been allotted portfolios. They are Mr Pranab Mukherjee (Finance), Mr P Chidambaram (Home), Mr A K Antony (Defence), Mr S M Krishna (External Affairs), Mr Pawar (Agriculture, Food Processing, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution) and Ms Banerjee (Railways).

The delay in allocating portfolios to the others gives some indication of the difficulties that Dr Singh has had in finalising the ministry.

Others who took oath on Friday included former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and former Karnataka Chief Minister M Veerappa Moily.

The cabinet also includes Mr Sushil Kumar Shinde, Mr S Jaipal Reddy, Mr Kamal Nath, Mr Vayalar Ravi, Ms Meira Kumar, Mr Murli Deora, Mr Kapil Sibal, Ms Ambika Soni, Mr B K Handique, Mr Anand Sharma---all ministers in the previous ministry-- and Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee chief C P Joshi.

Mr Sharma and Mr Handique were ministers of state in the previous ministry and have been elevated to cabinet rank in the new government.

All the remaining portfolios, including those for the ministers sworn in today, are expected to be announced later today.

Of the new Cabinet Ministers sworn in today, Mr Deshmukh is a former Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Dr Abdullah has been Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir and Mr Virbhadra Singh that of Himachal Pradesh.

Three nominees of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam---former ministers Dayanidhi Maran and A Raja---and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi's son M K Azhagiri were amongst those sworn in as Cabinet Ministers.

Ms Selja, Mr Sahay, Mr Bansal, Mr Gill, Mr Bhuria and Mr Vasan were Ministers of State in the previous UPA government and find themselves elevated to Cabinet rank this time. Mr Wasnik is making a comeback to the Union Ministry after nearly 12 years, having served as Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports and for Parliamentary Affairs in 1993-96.

Mr Kharge has served as Minister in the Karnataka government, handling various ministries, and also been president of the Karnataka unit of the Congress.

Of the Ministers of State with Independent Charge, Mr Praful Patel had the same rank in the previous government. Mr Chavan, Mr Jaiswal, Mr Dinsha Patel and Mr Jairam Ramesh were Ministers of State in the earlier government and have been given independent charge of their assignments this time. Mr Salman Khursheed has served as Minister of State for External Affairs and also held other portfolions in the 1990s. Ms Tirath, elected from Delhi, is making her debut in the Union Council of Ministers.

Among the Ministers of State, Mr Shashi Tharoor, elected from Thiruvananthapuram, is a former Under-Secretary General of the United Nations.

Mr Scindia and Mr Prasada, part of the young brigade in the Congress, were part of the previous UPA government. Mr Pilot, another young MP, is the son of the late Congress leader Rajesh Pilot.

Mr Ahamed, Mrs Purandeswari, Mrs Panaba Laksmi, Mr Maken, Mr Meena and Mr Pallam Raju were part of the previous Manmohan Singh Ministry.

Mr Jena, Mr Ramachandran and Prof Thomas have served in the Union Government before.

Mr Kamat is a former president of the Mumbai Regional Congress Committee and former Youth Congress chief, while Ms Agatha Sangma is the daughter of former Lok Sabha Speaker Purno Sangma.
Virbhadra Singh
Virbhadra Singh
Vilasrao Deshmukh
Vilasrao Deshmukh
Dr. Farooq Abdullah
Dr. Farooq Abdullah
Dayanidhi Maran
Dayanidhi Maran
A Raja
A Raja
Mallikarjun Kharge
Mallikarjun Kharge
Kumari Selja
Ms. Selja
Subodh Kant Sahay
Subodh Kant Sahay
Dr. M S Gill
Dr. M S Gill
G K Vasan
G K Vasan
Pawan Kumar Bansal
Pawan Kumar Bansal
Mukul Wasnik
Mukul Wasnik
Kantilal Bhuria
Kantilal Bhuria
M K Azhagiri
M K Azhagiri
 
The Cabinet Ministers taking their oaths.
 

The expansion of the ministry was widely expected to be carried out on Tuesday but it was put off, apparently because, among other things, leaders of the Trinamool Congress (TC), a key ally of the Congress in the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA), were busy with relief operations in cyclone-hit West Bengal.

Sources said that, apart from this, the UPA leadership also needed more time to reconcile the various claims for ministerial berths, both from within the Congress and from the allies.

Earlier this week, the Congress and the DMK sorted out differences between them on the number of ministerial berths and the portfolios to be allotted to the latter. As part of the understanding, it is learnt that Mr Maran will probably get the Textiles Ministry, with Chemicals and Fertilisers for Mr Azhagiri and Information Technology and Communications again for Mr Raja.

Mr Maran is a grand-nephew of Mr Karunanidhi and had held the IT and Communications portfolio for some time in the previous UPA government before Mr Karunanidhi pulled him out about two years ago because of serious differences within the family, which have since been sorted out.

As many as 64 ministers were expected to be sworn in with Dr Singh last Friday but, as it turned out, only 19 took oath because of the delay in hammering out a solution with the DMK.

As many as 17 of the 19 Cabinet Ministers who were sworn in on Friday are from the Congress. Mr Sharad Pawar of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Ms Mamata Banerjee (TC) were the only two representatives of the Congress' allies to take oath on that day.

The Congress ended up with 206 seats in the Lok Sabha in the just-concluded elections. The next largest party in the UPA is the TC with 19 seats, followed by the DMK with 18. In all, the UPA has 274 seats in the Lok Sabha. The number of MPs supporting it, including those who have pledged support from the outside, is 322.

Those extending support from outside include Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the Samajwadi Party (SP) of Mulayam Singh Yadav and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) of Lalu Prasad Yadav.

NNN

PM expands Council of Ministers

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Council of Ministers was expanded when President Pratibha Patil administered the oaths of office and secrecy to the new ministers at a ceremony in Rashtrapati Bhavan here today.

Virbhadra Singh
Virbhadra Singh
Vilasrao Deshmukh
Vilasrao Deshmukh
Dr. Farooq Abdullah
Dr. Farooq Abdullah
Dayanidhi Maran
Dayanidhi Maran
A Raja
A Raja
Mallikarjun Kharge
Mallikarjun Kharge
Kumari Selja
Ms. Selja
Subodh Kant Sahay
Subodh Kant Sahay
Dr. M S Gill
Dr. M S Gill
G K Vasan
G K Vasan
Pawan Kumar Bansal
Pawan Kumar Bansal
Kantilal Bhuria
Kantilal Bhuria
Praful Patel
Praful Patel
Prithviraj Chauhan
Prithviraj Chauhan
Shriprakash Jaiswal
Shriprakash Jaiswal
Dinsha Patel
Dinsha Patel
Krishna Tirath
Krishna Tirath
E Ahamed
E Ahamed
V Narayanswamy
V Narayanswamy
D Purandeswari
D Purandeswari
Namo Narain Meena
Namo Narain Meena
Jyotiraditya Scindia
Jyotiraditya Scindia
Jitin Prasada
Jitin Prasada
Sai Prathap Annayyagari
Sai Prathap Annayyagari
Gurudas Kamat
Gurudas Kamat
M M Pallam Raju
M M Pallam Raju
Mukul Roy
Mukul Roy
S S Palanimanickam
S S Palanimanickam
Preneet Kaur
Preneet Kaur
Sachin Pilot
Sachin Pilot
Shashi Tharoor
Shashi Tharoor
Bharatsinh Solanki
Bharatsinh Solanki
Tushar Chaudhary
Tushar Chaudhary
Arun Yadav
Arun Yadav
Prateek Patil
Prateek Patil
Bharatsinh Solanki
Agatha Sangma
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Council of Ministers was expanded when President Pratibha Patil administered the oaths of office and secrecy to 59 new ministers at a ceremony in Rashtrapati Bhavan here today.

The swearing-in ceremony began at 1130 hours.

The new ministers include 14 Cabinet Ministers, seven Ministers of State with Independent Charge and 38 Ministers of State.

Dr Singh had been sworn in for his second consecutive five-year term, along with 19 Cabinet Ministers, last Friday.

The following are the names recommended by the Prime Minister to the President for inclusion in the Council of Ministers:

Cabinet Ministers:

1. Mr Virbhadra Singh
2. Mr Vilasrao Deshmukh
3. Dr. Farooq Abdullah
4. Mr Dayanidhi Maran
5. Mr A Raja
6. Mr Mallikarjun Kharge
7. Ms Selja
8. Mr Subodh Kant Sahay
9. Dr M S Gill
10. Mr G K Vasan
11. Mr Pawan Kumar Bansal
12. Mr Mukul Wasnik
13. Mr Kantilal Bhuria
14. Mr M K Azhagiri

Ministers of State with Independent Charge:

1. Mr Praful Patel
2. Mr Prithviraj Chauhan
3. Mr Sriprakash Jaiswal
4. Mr Salman Khursheed
5. Mr Dinsha Patel
6. Mr Jairam Ramesh
7. Mrs Krishna Tirath

Ministers of State:

1. Mr E Ahamed
2. Mr V Narayanasamy
3. Mr Srikant Jena
4. Mr Mullappally Ramachandran
5. Mrs D Purandeswari
6. Mrs Panabaka Lakshmi
7. Mr Ajay Maken
8. Mr K H Muniyappa
9. Mr Namo Narain Meena
10. Mr Jyotiraditya Scindia
11. Mr Jitin Prasad
12. Mr A Sai Prathap
13. Mr Gurudas Kamat
14. Mr M M Pallam Raju
15. Mr Mahadev Khandela
16. Mr Harish Rawat
17. Prof. K V Thomas
18. Mr Saugata Ray
19. Mr Dinesh Trivedi
20. Mr Sisir Adhikari
21. Mr Sultan Ahmed
22. Mr Mukul Roy
23. Mr Mohan Jatua
24. Mr S S Palanimanickam
25. Mr D Napoleon
26. Dr. S Jagathrakshakan
27. Mr S Gandhiselvan
28. Mrs Preneet Kaur
29. Mr Sachin Pilot
30. Mr Shashi Tharoor
31. Mr Bharatsinh Solanki
32. Mr Tusharbhai Chaudhary
33. Mr Arun Yadav
34. Mr Prateek Prakashbapu Patil
35. Mr R P N Singh
36. Mr Vincent Pala
37. Mr Pradeep Jain
38. Ms. Agatha Sangma

NNN

Ministry expansion tomorrow, 59 ministers to be inducted

PM Manmohan Singh will carry out the much-awaited expansion of his new Council of Ministers by inducting 59 ministers, including former CMs Vilasrao Deshmukh, Farooq Abdullah and Virbhadra Singh.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will carry out the much-awaited expansion of his new Council of Ministers by inducting 59 ministers, including former chief ministers Vilasrao Deshmukh, Farooq Abdullah and Virbhadra Singh.

Three nominees of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam---former ministers Dayanidhi Maran and A Raja---and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi's son M K Azhagiri will also be included in the cabinet.

The new ministers will be sworn in by President Pratibha Patil at 1130 hours at a ceremony in Rashtrapati Bhavan.

The new ministers will include 14 Cabinet Ministers, seven Ministers of State with Independent Charge and 38 Ministers of State, an official announcement said.

Dr Singh had been sworn in for his second consecutive five-year term, along with 19 Cabinet Ministers, last Friday. With tomorrow's expansion, the strength of the Union Council of Ministers will go up to 79, including 33 Cabinet Ministers, seven Ministers of State with Independent Charge and 38 Ministers of State.

The following are the names recommended by the Prime Minister to the President for inclusion in the Council of Ministers:

Cabinet Ministers:
Virbhadra Singh
Virbhadra Singh
Dr. Farooq Abdullah
Dr. Farooq Abdullah
Dayanidhi Maran
Dayanidhi Maran
A Raja
A Raja
Kumari Selja
Ms. Selja
Subodh Kant Sahay
Subodh Kant Sahay
Dr. M S Gill
Dr. M S Gill
G K Vasan
G K Vasan
Pawan Kumar Bansal
Pawan Kumar Bansal
Kantilal Bhuria
Kantilal Bhuria
Praful Patel
Praful Patel
Prithviraj Chauhan
Prithviraj Chauhan
Shriprakash Jaiswal
Shriprakash Jaiswal
Dinsha Patel
Dinsha Patel
Krishna Tirath
Krishna Tirath
V Narayanswamy
V Narayanswamy
Namo Narain Meena
Namo Narain Meena
Jyotiraditya Scindia
Jyotiraditya Scindia
Jitin Prasada
Jitin Prasada
Sai Prathap Annayyagari
Sai Prathap Annayyagari


1. Mr Virbhadra Singh
2. Mr Vilasrao Deshmukh
3. Dr. Farooq Abdullah
4. Mr Dayanidhi Maran
5. Mr A Raja
6. Mr Mallikarjun Kharge
7. Ms Selja
8. Mr Subodh Kant Sahay
9. Dr M S Gill
10. Mr G K Vasan
11. Mr Pawan Kumar Bansal
12. Mr Mukul Wasnik
13. Mr Kantilal Bhuria
14. Mr M K Azhagiri

Ministers of State with Independent Charge:

1. Mr Praful Patel
2. Mr Prithviraj Chauhan
3. Mr Sriprakash Jaiswal
4. Mr Salman Khursheed
5. Mr Dinsha Patel
6. Mr Jairam Ramesh
7. Mrs Krishna Tirath

Ministers of State

1. Mr E Ahamed
2. Mr V Narayanasamy
3. Mr Srikant Jena
4. Mr Mullappally Ramachandran
5. Mrs D Purandeswari
6. Mrs Panabaka Lakshmi
7. Mr Ajay Maken
8. Mr K H Muniyappa
9. Mr Namo Narain Meena
10. Mr Jyotiraditya Scindia
11. Mr Jitin Prasad
12. Mr A Sai Prathap
13. Mr Gurudas Kamat
14. Mr M M Pallam Raju
15. Mr Mahadev Khandela
16. Mr Harish Rawat
17. Prof. K V Thomas
18. Mr Saugata Ray
19. Mr Dinesh Trivedi
20. Mr Sisir Adhikari
21. Mr Sultan Ahmed
22. Mr Mukul Roy
23. Mr Mohan Jatua
24. Mr S S Palanimanickam
25. Mr D Napoleon
26. Dr. S Jagathrakshakan
27. Mr S Gandhiselvan
28. Mrs Preneet Kaur
29. Mr Sachin Pilot
30. Mr Shashi Tharoor
31. Mr Bharatsinh Solanki
32. Mr Tusharbhai Chaudhary
33. Mr Arun Yadav
34. Mr Prateek Prakashbapu Patil
35. Mr R P N Singh
36. Mr Vincent Pala
37. Mr Pradeep Jain
38. Ms. Agatha Sangma

The expansion of the ministry was widely expected to be carried out on Tuesday but it was put off, apparently because, among other things, leaders of the Trinamool Congress (TC), a key ally of the Congress in the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA), were busy with relief operations in cyclone-hit West Bengal.

Sources said that, apart from this, the UPA leadership also needed more time to reconcile the various claims for ministerial berths, both from within the Congress and from the allies.

Earlier this week, the Congress and the DMK sorted out differences between them on the number of ministerial berths and the portfolios to be allotted to the latter. As part of the understanding, it is learnt that Mr Maran will probably get the Textiles Ministry, with Chemicals and Fertilisers for Mr Azhagiri and Information Technology and Communications again for Mr Raja.

Mr Maran is a grand-nephew of Mr Karunanidhi and had held the IT and Communications portfolio for some time in the previous UPA government before Mr Karunanidhi pulled him out about two years ago because of serious differences within the family, which have since been sorted out.

As many as 64 ministers were expected to be sworn in with Dr Singh last Friday but, as it turned out, only 19 took oath because of the delay in hammering out a solution with the DMK.

As many as 17 of the 19 Cabinet Ministers who were sworn in on Friday are from the Congress. Mr Sharad Pawar of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Ms Mamata Banerjee (TC) were the only two representatives of the Congress' allies to take oath on that day.

The Congress ended up with 206 seats in the Lok Sabha in the just-concluded elections. The next largest party in the UPA is the TC with 19 seats, followed by the DMK with 18. In all, the UPA has 274 seats in the Lok Sabha. The number of MPs supporting it, including those who have pledged support from the outside, is 322.

Those extending support from outside include Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the Samajwadi Party (SP) of Mulayam Singh Yadav and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) of Lalu Prasad Yadav.

Only six of the 19 ministers sworn in on Friday have so far been allotted portfolios. They are Mr Pranab Mukherjee (Finance), Mr P Chidambaram (Home), Mr A K Antony (Defence), Mr S M Krishna (External Affairs), Mr Pawar (Agriculture, Food Processing, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution) and Ms Banerjee (Railways).

The delay in allocating portfolios to the others gives some indication of the difficulties that Dr Singh and his party have had in finalising the ministry.

Others who took oath on Friday included former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and former Karnataka Chief Minister M Veerappa Moily.

The cabinet also includes Mr Sushil Kumar Shinde, Mr S Jaipal Reddy, Mr Kamal Nath, Mr Vayalar Ravi, Ms Meira Kumar, Mr Murli Deora, Mr Kapil Sibal, Ms Ambika Soni, Mr B K Handique, Mr Anand Sharma---all ministers in the previous ministry-- and Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee chief C P Joshi.

Mr Sharma and Mr Handique were ministers of state in the previous ministry and have been elevated to cabinet rank in the new government.

NNN

59 ministers to be sworn in Thursday

As many as 59 new ministers will be sworn in by President Pratibha Patil Thursday morning as part of the expansion of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Council of Ministers.

As many as 59 new ministers will be sworn in by President Pratibha Patil tomorrow morning as part of the expansion of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Council of Ministers.

The new ministers will include 14 Cabinet Ministers, seven Ministers of State with Independent Charge and 38 Ministers of State, an official announcement said.

The swearing-in ceremony is scheduled to be held at 1130 hours tomorrow at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Dr Singh had been sworn in for his second consecutive five-year term, along with 19 Cabinet Ministers, last Friday.

The following are the names recommended by the Prime Minister to the President for inclusion in the Council of Ministers:
Virbhadra Singh
Virbhadra Singh
Dr. Farooq Abdullah
Dr. Farooq Abdullah
Dayanidhi Maran
Dayanidhi Maran
A Raja
A Raja
Kumari Selja
Ms. Selja
Subodh Kant Sahay
Subodh Kant Sahay
Dr. M S Gill
Dr. M S Gill
G K Vasan
G K Vasan
Pawan Kumar Bansal
Pawan Kumar Bansal
Kantilal Bhuria
Kantilal Bhuria
Praful Patel
Praful Patel
Prithviraj Chauhan
Prithviraj Chauhan

Cabinet Ministers:

1. Mr Virbhadra Singh
2. Mr Vilasrao Deshmukh
3. Dr. Farooq Abdullah
4. Mr Dayanidhi Maran
5. Mr A Raja
6. Mr Mallikarjun Kharge
7. Ms Selja
8. Mr Subodh Kant Sahay
9. Dr M S Gill
10. Mr G K Vasan
11. Mr Pawan Kumar Bansal
12. Mr Mukul Wasnik
13. Mr Kantilal Bhuria
14. Mr M K Azhagiri

Ministers of State with Independent Charge:

1. Mr Praful Patel
2. Mr Prithviraj Chauhan
3. Mr Sriprakash Jaiswal
4. Mr Salman Khursheed
5. Mr Dinsha Patel
6. Mr Jairam Ramesh
7. Mrs Krishna Tirath

Ministers of State:

1. Mr E Ahamed
2. Mr V Narayanasamy
3. Mr Srikant Jena
4. Mr Mullappally Ramachandran
5. Mrs D Purandeswari
6. Mrs Panabaka Lakshmi
7. Mr Ajay Maken
8. Mr K H Muniyappa
9. Mr Namo Narain Meena
10. Mr Jyotiraditya Scindia
11. Mr Jitin Prasad
12. Mr A Sai Prathap
13. Mr Gurudas Kamat
14. Mr M M Pallam Raju
15. Mr Mahadev Khandela
16. Mr Harish Rawat
17. Prof. K V Thomas
18. Mr Saugata Ray
19. Mr Dinesh Trivedi
20. Mr Sisir Adhikari
21. Mr Sultan Ahmed
22. Mr Mukul Roy
23. Mr Mohan Jatua
24. Mr S S Palanimanickam
25. Mr D Napoleon
26. Dr. S Jagathrakshakan
27. Mr S Gandhiselvan
28. Mrs Preneet Kaur
29. Mr Sachin Pilot
30. Mr Shashi Tharoor
31. Mr Bharatsinh Solanki
32. Mr Tusharbhai Chaudhary
33. Mr Arun Yadav
34. Mr Prateek Prakashbapu Patil
35. Mr R P N Singh
36. Mr Vincent Pala
37. Mr Pradeep Jain
38. Ms. Agatha Sangma

NNN

Manmohan Singh to expand ministry Thursday morning

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will expand his ministry on Thursday morning by bringing in representatives of the allies of the Congress in the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) as well as more nominees of his own party.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will expand his ministry on Thursday morning by bringing in representatives of the allies of the Congress in the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) as well as more nominees of his own party.

Official sources told NetIndian that the new ministers would be sworn in at 1130 hours on Thursday by President Pratibha Patil at a ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

There was no word on the names or the number of ministers to be sworn in on Thursday, but Congress sources had earlier indicated that the final strength of the ministry would be around 80, which is close to the maximum permissible size for the ministry under the law.

The expansion was widely expected to be carried out today, but it was apparently put off because, among other things, leaders of the Trinamool Congress (TC), a key ally, are busy with relief operations in cyclone-hit West Bengal.

In fact, TC leader Mamata Banerjee, who has already been sworn in and allotted the Railways ministry, assumed office in Kolkata itself today instead of coming to Rail Bhavan in New Delhi as originally planned.

Ms Banerjee and other Members of Parliament of her party, some of whom will be included in the Union Council of Ministers, are busy coordinating relief activities for the victims of the cyclone.

It was not possible to hold the swearing-in ceremony tomorrow because it is Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru's death anniversary, the sources said.

Sources indicated that, apart from this, the UPA leadership also needed more time to reconcile the various claims for ministerial berths, both from within the Congress as well as from the allies.

Dr Singh, Congress President and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and senior Congress leaders Ahmed Patel continued their discussions today to finalise the composition of the ministry. The task became slightly easier after the problems with the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) on the number of ministerial berths and portfolios to be allotted to it were resolved.

DMK supremo and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi said in Chennai yesterday that the Prime Minister had approved the names of the nominees forwarded for inclusion in the ministry by the party.

No details were given, but it is understood that the DMK will get three Cabinet berths and four slots of Ministers of State.

The party's representatives in the Cabinet are likely to be Mr Dayanidhi Maran, who will probably get the Textiles Ministry, Mr M K Azhagiri, a son of Mr Karunanidhi, is likely to get Chemicals and Fertilisers, and Mr A Raja, who was in the previous government and might get Information Technology and Communications again.

Mr Maran is a grand-nephew of Mr Karunanidhi and had held the IT and Communications portfolio for some time in the earlier UPA government before Mr Karunanidhi pulled him out about two years ago because of serious differences within the family, which have since been sorted out.

Earlier, reports had indicated that Ms Kanimozhi, a daughter of Mr Karunanidhi and a member of the Rajya Sabha, would be made Minister of State for Women and Child Development with independent charge. But it now appears that the Congress had not agreed to the independent charge for her, and she might decide to stay out of the government.

Mr T R Baalu of the DMK, who handled Shipping and Surface Transport in the previous government, might not be included in the Cabinet this time.

As many as 64 ministers were expected to be sworn in with Dr Singh last Friday but, as it turned out, only 19 took oath because of the delay in hammering out a solution with the DMK.

As many as 17 of the 19 Cabinet Ministers who were sworn in on Friday are from the Congress. Mr Sharad Pawar of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Ms Banerjee were the only two representatives of the Congress' allies to take oath on that day.

The Congress ended up with 206 seats in the Lok Sabha in the just-concluded elections. The next largest party in the UPA is the TC with 19 seats, followed by the DMK with 18.

In all, the UPA has 274 seats in the Lok Sabha. The number of MPs supporting it, including those who have pledged support from the outside, is 322.

Those extending support from outside include Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the Samajwadi Party (SP) of Mulayam Singh Yadav and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) of Lalu Prasad Yadav.

The talks between the Congress and the DMK had broken down on Thursday night, with the regional ally unwilling to accept the formula proposed to it. In fact, the party announced that it would stay out of the Council of Ministers and support the UPA government from outside, which some saw as basically a bargaining ploy. Mr Karunanidhi and his colleagues flew back to Chennai on Friday morning, though some DMK members stayed back to attend the swearing-in ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan that evening.

And though 19 ministers have been sworn in, only six of them have so far been allotted portfolios. They are Mr Pranab Mukherjee (Finance), Mr P Chidambaram (Home), Mr A K Antony (Defence), Mr S M Krishna (External Affairs), Mr Pawar (Agriculture, Food Processing, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution) and Ms Banerjee (Railways). The delay in allocating portfolios to the others gives some indication of the difficulties that Dr Singh and his party have had in finalising the ministry.

Others who took oath on Friday included former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and former Karnataka Chief Minister M Veerappa Moily.

The cabinet also includes Mr Sushil Kumar Shinde, Mr S Jaipal Reddy, Mr Kamal Nath, Mr Vayalar Ravi, Ms Meira Kumar, Mr Murli Deora, Mr Kapil Sibal, Ms Ambika Soni, Mr B K Handique, Mr Anand Sharma---all ministers in the previous ministry-- and Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee chief C P Joshi.

Mr Sharma and Mr Handique were ministers of state in the previous ministry and have been elevated to cabinet rank in the new cabinet.

The government had, in an official statement on Friday, said that an expansion of the ministry would take place soon when more ministers and more representatives of the allies would be included.

The expansion exercise could see the induction of Mr Praful Patel and Ms Agatha Sangma (former Lok Sabha Speaker Purno Sangma's daughter) of the NCP, former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah (National Conference), and former Minister Jairam Ramesh of the Congress.

Former Union Ministers such as Salman Khurshid and Jairam Ramesh are also likely to be included.

Some young faces, such as Mr Jyotiraditya Scindia, Mr Jitin Prasada, Mr Sachin Pilot and Mr Naveen Jindal and Ms Priya Dutt, are also likely to be included. Of them, the first two were Ministers of State in the previous government.

The meetings between Dr Singh and Ms Gandhi and the other senior Congress leaders were, in particular, aimed at ensuring that all regions of the country as well as various castes and communities got adequate representation in the Council of Ministers, the sources added.

NNN

Ministry expansion may be delayed by a day

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's plans to expand his ministry on Tuesday may be put off by a day because leaders of the Trinamool Congress, some of whom are slated to become ministers, are busy with relief operations in cyclone-hit West Bengal.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's plans to expand his ministry on Tuesday may be put off by a day because leaders of the Trinamool Congress (TC), a key ally of the Congress in the ruling United Progressive Alliance, are busy with relief operations in West Bengal, which was hit by a severe cyclonic storm today.

TC leader Mamata Banerjee, who has already been sworn in and allotted the Railways ministry, will now assume office at the Eastern Railway headquarters in Kolkata tomorrow instead of coming to Rail Bhavan in New Delhi as originally planned, sources said.

Ms Banerjee and other Members of Parliament of her party, some of whom will be included in the Union Council of Ministers, are busy coordinating relief activities for the victims of the cyclone.

In view of this, the Prime Minister is understood to have decided to defer the swearing-in ceremony for the new ministers by a day, the sources said.

Dr Singh, Congress President and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and senior Congress leaders Ahmed Patel and Pranab Mukherjee were in day-long discussions today to finalise the composition of the ministry, now that the problems with the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam on the number of ministerial berths and portfolios to be allotted to it have been resolved.

DMK supremo and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi said in Chennai that the Prime Minister had approved the names of the nominees forwarded for inclusion in the ministry by the party.

No details were given, but it is understood that the DMK will get three Cabinet berths and four slots of Ministers of State.

The party's representatives in the Cabinet are likely to be Mr Dayanidhi Maran, who will probably get the Textiles Ministry, Mr M K Azhagiri, a son of Mr Karunanidhi, is likely to get Chemicals and Fertilisers, and Mr A Raja, who was in the previous government and might get Information Technology and Communications again.

Mr Maran is a grand-nephew of Mr Karunanidhi and had held the IT and Communications portfolio for some time in the earlier UPA government before Mr Karunanidhi pulled him out about two years ago because of serious differences within the family, which have since been sorted out.

Earlier, reports had indicated that Ms Kanimozhi, a daughter of Mr Karunanidhi and a member of the Rajya Sabha, would be made Minister of State for Women and Child Development with independent charge. But it now appears that the Congress had not agreed to the independent charge for her, and she might decide to stay out of the government.

Mr T R Baalu of the DMK, who handled Shipping and Surface Transport in the previous government, might not be included in the Cabinet this time.

As many as 64 ministers were expected to be sworn in with Dr Singh last Friday but, as it turned out, only 19 took oath because of the delay in hammering out a solution with the DMK.

As many as 17 of the 19 Cabinet Ministers who were sworn in on Friday are from the Congress. Mr Sharad Pawar of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Ms Banerjee were the only two representatives of the Congress' allies to take oath on that day.

The Congress ended up with 206 seats in the Lok Sabha in the just-concluded elections. The next largest party in the UPA is the TC with 19 seats, followed by the DMK with 18. In all, the UPA has 274 seats in the Lok Sabha. The number of MPs supporting it, including those who have pledged support from the outside, is 322.

Those extending support from outside include Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the Samajwadi Party (SP) of Mulayam Singh Yadav and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) of Lalu Prasad Yadav.

The talks between the Congress and the DMK had broken down on Thursday night, with the regional ally unwilling to accept the formula proposed to it. In fact, the party announced that it would stay out of the Council of Ministers and support the UPA government from outside, which some saw as basically a bargaining ploy. Mr Karunanidhi and his colleagues flew back to Chennai on Friday morning, though some DMK members stayed back to attend the swearing-in ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan that evening.

And though 19 ministers have been sworn in, only six of them have so far been allotted portfolios. They are Mr Pranab Mukherjee (Finance), Mr P Chidambaram (Home), Mr A K Antony (Defence), Mr S M Krishna (External Affairs), Mr Pawar (Agriculture, Food Processing, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution) and Ms Banerjee (Railways). The delay in allocating portfolios to the others gives some indication of the difficulties that Dr Singh and his party have had in finalising the ministry.

Others who took oath on Friday included former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and former Karnataka Chief Minister M Veerappa Moily.

The new cabinet also includes Mr Sushil Kumar Shinde, Mr S Jaipal Reddy, Mr Kamal Nath, Mr Vayalar Ravi, Ms Meira Kumar, Mr Murli Deora, Mr Kapil Sibal, Ms Ambika Soni, Mr B K Handique, Mr Anand Sharma---all ministers in the previous ministry-- and Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee chief C P Joshi.

Mr Sharma and Mr Handique were ministers of state in the previous ministry and have been elevated to cabinet rank in the new cabinet.

The government had, in an official statement on Friday, said that an expansion of the ministry would take place soon when more ministers and more representatives of the allies would be included.

While there is no official word on the size of the Council of Ministers, it is likely that the number would be around 80, the same as the number in the previous government.

The expansion exercise could see the induction of Mr Praful Patel and Ms Agatha Sangma (former Lok Sabha Speaker Purno Sangma's daughter) of the NCP, former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah (National Conference), and former Minister Jairam Ramesh of the Congress.

Some young faces, such as Mr Jyotiraditya Scindia, Mr Jitin Prasada, Mr Sachin Pilot and Mr Naveen Jindal and Ms Priya Dutt, are also likely to be included. Of them, the first two were Ministers of State in the previous government.

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DMK comes around, ministry expansion likely Tuesday

PM Manmohan Singh is likely to expand his Council of Ministers on Tuesday, with indications that the differences between the Congress and the DMK, its ally in the UPA, have been finally ironed out.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is likely to carry out the expected expansion of his Council of Ministers on Tuesday, with reports from Chennai indicating that the  differences between the Congress and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), its ally in the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA), have been finally ironed out.

While there was no official word on the agreement between the two sides, sources said the DMK had finally decided to join the government and that it would get three Cabinet slots and four Ministers of State.

The party's representatives in the Cabinet are likely to be Mr Dayanidhi Maran, who will probably get the Textiles Ministry. Mr M K Azhagiri, a son of DMK supremo and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, is likely to get Chemicals and Fertilisers, while Mr A Raja, who was in the previous government, too, might get Information Technology and Communications.

Mr Maran is a grand-nephew of Mr Karunanidhi and had held the IT and Communications portfolio for some time in the earlier UPA government before Mr Karunanidhi pulled him out because of serious differences within the family, which have since been sorted out.

The reports also indicated that Ms Kanimozhi, a daughter of Mr Karunanidhi and a member of the Rajya Sabha, would be made Minister of State for Women and Child Development with independent charge.

Mr T R Baalu of the DMK, who handled Shipping and Surface Transport in the previous government, might not be included in the Cabinet this time, the reports suggested. There was speculation that he might be considered for the Deputy Speaker's position.

The final formula was worked out at day-long meetings that Mr Karunanidhi had with his party colleagues in Chennai.

A formal announcement of the rapprochement is likely to be made tomorrow, the sources said.

Dr Singh, UPA chairperson and Congress president Sonia Gandhi and senior Congress leaders like Mr Ahmed Patel were said to be working out details of the final list of names and portfolios tonight.

As many as 64 ministers were expected to be sworn in with Dr Singh last Friday but, as it turned out, only 19 took oath because of the delay in hammering out a solution with the DMK.

As many as 17 of the 19 Cabinet Ministers who were sworn in on Friday are from the Congress. Mr Sharad Pawar of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Ms Mamata Banerjee of the Trinamool Congress (TC) were the only two representatives of the Congress' allies to take oath on that day.

The Congress ended up with 206 seats in the Lok Sabha in the just-concluded elections. The next largest party in the UPA is the TC with 19 seats, followed by the DMK with 18. In all, the UPA has 274 seats in the Lok Sabha. The number of MPs supporting it, including those who have pledged support from the outside, is 322. Those extending support from outside include Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the Samajwadi Party (SP) of Mulayam Singh Yadav and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) of Lalu Prasad Yadav.

The talks between the Congress and the DMK had broken down on Thursday night, with the regional ally unwilling to accept the formula proposed to it. In fact, the party announced that it would stay out of the Council of Ministers and support the UPA government from outside, which some saw as basically a bargaining ploy. Mr Karunanidhi and his colleagues flew back to Chennai on Friday morning, though some DMK members stayed back to attend the swearing-in ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan that evening.

And though 19 ministers have been sworn in, only six of them have so far been allotted portfolios. They are Mr Pranab Mukherjee (Finance), Mr P Chidambaram (Home), Mr A K Antony (Defence), Mr S M Krishna (External Affairs), Mr Pawar (Agriculture, Food Processing, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution) and Ms Banerjee (Railways).

Others who took oath on Friday included former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and former Karnataka Chief Minister M Veerappa Moily.

The new cabinet also includes Mr Sushil Kumar Shinde, Mr S Jaipal Reddy, Mr Kamal Nath, Mr Vayalar Ravi, Ms Meira Kumar, Mr Murli Deora, Mr Kapil Sibal, Ms Ambika Soni, Mr B K Handique, Mr Anand Sharma---all ministers in the previous ministry-- and Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee chief C P Joshi.

Mr Sharma and Mr Handique were ministers of state in the previous ministry and have been elevated to cabinet rank in the new cabinet.

The government had, in an official statement on Friday, said that an expansion of the ministry would take place soon when more ministers and more representatives of the allies would be included.

While there is no official word on the size of the Council of Ministers, it is likely that the number would be around 80, the same as the number in the previous government.

One of the fears that the Congress has is that if it gives in to the demands of the DMK on the number of ministerial berths, other allies could also raise similar demands. The TC and NCP are likely to ask for and get more berths in the Council of Ministers because of this.

Tuesday's exercise could see the induction of Mr Praful Patel and Ms Agatha Sangma (former Lok Sabha Speaker Purno Sangma's daughter) of the NCP, former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah (National Conference), and former Minister Jairam Ramesh of the Congress.

Some young faces, such as Mr Jyotiraditya Scindia, Mr Jitin Prasada, Mr Sachin Pilot and Mr Naveen Jindal and Ms Priya Dutt, are also likely to be included. Of them, the first two were Ministers of State in the previous government.

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Pranab gets Finance, Krishna External Affairs

Veteran Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee will be the new Finance Minister of India and former Karnataka Chief Minister S M Krishna its new External Affairs Minister.

Veteran Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee will be the new Finance Minister of India and former Karnataka Chief Minister S M Krishna its new External Affairs Minister.

Mr P Chidambaram will continue to look after Home Affairs, while Mr A K Antony will retain Defence and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Sharad Pawar will retain Agriculture, Food and Civil Supplies, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution.

The three ministers had held the same portfolios in the previous Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.

Trinamool Congress (TC) supremo Mamata Banerjee makes a return to the Union Government after several years as the new Minister for Railways, a portfolio that she has handled before and which she reportedly was keen on again this time.

In all, 19 Cabinet Ministers had taken oaths of office and secrecy along with Dr Singh yesterday, but the Prime Minister is yet to decide on the portfolios of the others.
Pranab Mukherjee, Finance Minister
Pranab Mukherjee
Finance Minister
A K Antony, Defence Minister
A K Antony
Defence Minister
P Chidambaram, Home Minister
P Chidambaram
Home Minister
Sharad Pawar, Minister for Agriculture, Food and Civil Supplies, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution
Sharad Pawar
Agriculture, Food & Civil Supplies,
Consumer Affairs & Pub. Distbn.

S M Krishna, External Affairs
S M Krishna
External Affairs
 

Mamata Banerjee, Railways Minister
Mamata Banerjee
Railways Minister
 

Cabinet ministers with important portfolios.

Mr Chidambaram was the Finance Minister for most of the previous UPA government's tenure, but he was shifted to Home after the November 26, 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

The Prime Minister himself was handling Finance for some time, but then he had to go in for a coronary bypass surgery, during which period he asked Mr Mukherjee to look after the assignment.

Mr Mukherjee has been Finance Minister once earlier in the early 1980s in the Indira Gandhi government. An economist by training, Mr Mukherjee has also served as Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission in the late 1980s.

Mr Krishna, 77, a suave politician who as Chief Minister had helped usher in the Information Technology revolution in Karnataka, was governor of Maharashtra from 2004 to 2008 before he quit to return to active politics in his state.  He has served as Minister of State at the Centre in the Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi governments.

A graduate in Arts, Mr Krishna also took a degree in Law before he went to study at the Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, and the George Washington University in Washington, DC, where he was a Fulbright scholar. He also taught International Law there.

A Rashtrapati Bhavan communique said President Pratibha Patil had made the allocation of portfolios to the six ministers on the advice of the Prime Minister. All the ministries that have remained unallocated would be looked after by the Prime Minister, it added.

Dr Singh began his second five-year term as Prime Minister Friday evening, and the UPA had originally planned to induct about 64 ministers in one go but this could not be done after problems cropped between the Congress and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) over the number of ministerial berths and portfolios being given to its representatives.

The talks broke down on Thursday night and the DMK announced that it would stay out of the Council of Ministers and extend support from outside to the UPA government. DMK supremo and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, who was camping here for three days for negotiations with the Congress on this issue, left yesterday morning for Chennai.

In view of its pre-occupation with the problems that arose with the DMK, the Congress could not complete the discussions on the ministry formation with other allies in the UPA. In the end, it was decided that only 19 ministers, mainly from the Congress, would take oath on Friday evening. The others would be included in an expansion of the ministry, likely to be carried out Tuesday.

Meanwhile, there were indications from Chennai that the DMK was actively considering the formula proposed to it by the Congress in this matter.

Mr Pawar and Ms Banerjee were the only two representatives of the other parties in the UPA to be sworn in Friday.

Others who took oath yesterday included former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and former Karnataka Chief Minister M Veerappa Moily.

The new cabinet also includes Mr Sushil Kumar Shinde, Mr S Jaipal Reddy, Mr Kamal Nath, Mr Vayalar Ravi, Ms Meira Kumar, Mr Murli Deora, Mr Kapil Sibal, Ms Ambika Soni, Mr B K Handique, Mr Anand Sharma---all ministers in the previous ministry-- and Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee chief C P Joshi.

Mr Sharma and Mr Handique were ministers of state in the previous ministry and have been elevated to cabinet rank in the new cabinet.

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Team Manmohan begins second term, portfolios within two days

PM Manmohan Singh was sworn in for a second term in office by President Pratibha Patil on Friday along with 19 Cabinet Ministers against the background of differences between the Congress and the DMK.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was sworn in for a second term in office by President Pratibha Patil this evening along with 19 Cabinet Ministers, including Congress leaders Pranab Mukherjee, P Chidamabaram and A K Antony against the background of differences between the Congress and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) over ministerial berths that prevented the induction of a larger team.
President Pratibha Devisingh Patil administering the oath of office of the Prime Minister to Dr. Manmohan Singh at the Swearing-in Ceremony, at Rashtrapati Bhavan, today.

President Pratibha Devisingh Patil administering the oath of office of the Prime Minister to Dr. Manmohan Singh at the Swearing-in Ceremony, at Rashtrapati Bhavan, today.

Others inducted into the cabinet today included Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president Sharad Pawar and Trinamool Congress (TC) chief Mamata Banerjee.

They were the only two representatives of the allies of the Congress in the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) sworn in today.

Former Karnataka Chief Ministers S M Krishna and M Veerappa Moily, former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Ghulam Nabi Azad and other Congress leaders such as Sushil Kumar Shinde were also sworn in today.
President Pratibha Devisingh Patil administering the oath of office of a Cabinet Minister to Pranab Mukherjee at the Swearing-in Ceremony, at Rashtrapati Bhavan, today.President Pratibha Devisingh Patil administering the oath of office of a Cabinet Minister to A K Antony at the Swearing-in Ceremony, at Rashtrapati Bhavan, today.President Pratibha Devisingh Patil administering the oath of office of a Cabinet Minister to P Chidambaram at the Swearing-in Ceremony, at Rashtrapati Bhavan, today.
President Pratibha Devisingh Patil administering the oath of office of a Cabinet Minister to Sharad Pawar at the Swearing-in Ceremony, at Rashtrapati Bhavan, today.President Pratibha Devisingh Patil administering the oath of office of a Cabinet Minister to Mamata Bannerjee at the Swearing-in Ceremony, at Rashtrapati Bhavan, today.President Pratibha Devisingh Patil administering the oath of office of a Cabinet Minister to S M Krishna at the Swearing-in Ceremony, at Rashtrapati Bhavan, today.
Pranab Mukherjee, A K Antony, P Chidambaram, Sharad Pawar, Mamata Banerjee and S M Krishna being sworn during the swearing-in ceremony today.
The others inducted today were Mr S Jaipal Reddy, Mr Kamal Nath, Mr Vayalar Ravi, Ms Meira Kumar, Mr Murli Deora, Mr Kapil Sibal, Ms Ambika Soni, Mr B K Handique, Mr Anand Sharma---all ministers in the outgoing ministry-- and Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee chief C P Joshi.

Mr Sharma and Mr Handique were ministers of state in the outgoing government and have been elevated to cabinet rank in the new cabinet.

Dr Singh has created history of sorts by becoming the first Prime Minister after Jawaharlal Nehru to win a second term in office after completing a five-year tenure. Incidentally, he had been sworn in as Prime Minister for the first time on this very day five years ago.

The new ministers were administered the oaths of office and secrecy by President Patil at a glittering ceremony in Rashtrapati Bhavan that began at 1830 hours.

"This will be followed in the next few days by an expansion of the Council of Ministers, including other Cabinet Ministers, Ministers of State with independent charge as well other Ministers of State. This expansion will give due representation to allied parties," an official statement said.

Though the original plans were to induct about 64 ministers today, the UPA leadership finally decided to induct only 19 cabinet ministers today, to begin with, and expand the ministry a few days later, by when the problems that had cropped up with regard to ministerial berths with the DMK would likely be resolved.

Pending that, the UPA leadership also decided to limit today's exercise to senior Congress ministers as well as Mr Pawar and Ms Banerjee and induct more ministers, including representatives of other constituents of the alliance, in the next round.

While no date has been set for the expansion, it is learnt that it could be done as early as on Tuesday.

Amongst those present at the swearing-in ceremony were Vice-President Mohammad Hamid Ansari, former Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Leader of the Opposition Lal Krishna Advani and Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia.

Others present included former Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi and his sister Priyanka Vadra with her husband Robert Vadra.

Also seen were former Railways Minister Lalu Prasad and former Steel Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, whose Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), respectively, though allies of the UPA, had decided to fight the Lok Sabha elections alone. The RJD ended up with just four seats and the LJP with none. Both of them now find themselves out in the cold, though there is a remote chance that Mr Prasad might ultimately find a place in the Council of Ministers.

Portfolios of the new ministers are expected to be announced only in a day or two, given the problems the alliance is facing on the allocation of portfolios. But it is widely expected that Mr Mukherjee will be given Finance while Mr Chidambaram and Mr Antony will retain Home and Defence, respectively.
Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister
Dr. Manmohan Singh
Prime Minister
Pranab Mukherjee, Finance Minister
Pranab Mukherjee
Finance Minister
P Chidambaram, Home Minister
P Chidambaram
Home Minister
A K Antony, Defence Minister
A K Antony
Defence Minister
Sharad Pawar
Sharad Pawar
 
Mamata Banerjee, Railways Minister
Mamata Banerjee
Railways Minister
S M Krishna
S M Krishna
 
Ghulam Nabi Azad
Ghulam Nabi Azad
 
Sushil Kumar Shinde
Sushil Kumar Shinde
 
Veerapa Moily
Veerapa Moily
 
Jaipal Reddy
Jaipal Reddy
Kamal Nath
Kamal Nath
Vayalar Ravi
Vayalar Ravi
Meira Kumar
Meira Kumar
Murli Deora
Murli Deora
Kapil Sibal
Kapil Sibal
Ambika Soni
Ambika Soni
B K Handique
B K Handique
Anand Sharma
Anand Sharma
C P Joshi
C P Joshi
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the 19 Cabinet Ministers sworn in today.
It is likely that External Affairs will go to Mr Krishna, though the name of Mr Kamal Nath has also been mentioned in this connection.

Mr Sibal is tipped to get Human Resource Development after having handled Science and Technology in the previous government. Mr Sharma is likely to get Information and Broadcasting, which he was handling in the previous ministry as an additional charge in the absence of Mr Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi, who is seriously ill.

Talking to mediapersons after the swearing-in ceremony, Dr Singh reached out to the DMK, hoping it would "see reason" and consider the "reasonable" offer made to it by the Congress on the number of ministerial berths and portfolions. "We hope they will see reason," he said.

"Whatever UPA offered is reasonable. They are our respected colleagues. We still hope that in the next few days they will reconsider their decision," he said. He hoped the DMK would "come back" without much delay.

There were also reports that Dr Singh was opposed to the inclusion of the DMK's A Raja and T R Baalu in the cabinet because there were serious allegations against them. But the Prime Minister said today that he had no such reservations. "They are our honoured colleagues. There is no question about having any reservation," he said.

Talks between the Congress and the DMK had broken down last night over the number of ministerial berths to be given to it and the regional party later announced it would extend support from outside to the UPA government and stay out of the Council of Ministers.

DMK supremo and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, who was camping in the capital for the last three days for negotiations on this issue with the Congress, flew back to Chennai this morning along with some of his party colleagues.

But the Congress insisted the dialogue with the DMK had not stopped and efforts would continue to resolve the issue amicably.

By late evening, there were reports that the DMK had agreed to scale down its expectations. When asked about this, former Union Information Technology minister Dayanidhi Maran said that the party position had been made clear by Mr Baalu last night and Mr Karunanidhi this morning. "Till he says anything, please do not speculate," he said.

It is because of this issue that the ministry formation exercise could not be completed. The Congress is yet to talk in this regard with some of the other constituents of the UPA.

Interestingly, some veterans in the outgoing Cabinet like Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh, Minorities Affairs Minister A R Antulay and Law and Justice Minister H R Bhardwaj do not find a place in the list of ministers sworn in today. Also missing are the names of Water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz, Mines Minister Sis Ram Ola, Heavy Industries Minister Sontosh Mohan Dev and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Minister Mahavir Prasad.

Two other members of the previous Cabinet, belonging to the Congress, Mani Shankar Aiyar and Shankar Singh Vaghela lost the just-concluded Lok Sabha elections from Tamil Nadu and Gujarat, respectively.

The hours before the swearing-in ceremony were marked by hectic political consultations to resolve the differences between the Congress and the DMK.

Ms Gandhi, Dr Singh and senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel held discussions about the names of those who will be included in the Council of Ministers and the portfolios to be allocated to them in the background of the breakdown in talks with the DMK.

Last night, the DMK announced that it would not join the Council of Ministers and instead extend support from the outside to the UPA government. It said that the formula proposed by the Congress was not acceptable to it. Later, the Congress said that the DMK wanted much more than what was being offered to it. The party also said that the DMK's announcement did not mean the dialogue between the two had ended.

It must be mentioned here that the DMK is dependent on support from the Congress in the Tamil Nadu legislative assembly and there were reports that the Congress might now ask for places in the state government for its MLAs.

A meeting of the DMK executive was due to be held in Chennai today to discuss the issue, sources said.

There were also some hiccups between the Congress and the National Conference (NC), which is also a part of the UPA.

NC leader and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah flew off to South Africa to witness the semi-finals and final of the Indian Premier League cricket tournament being played there, apparently miffed that he had not been told anything about whether he would be included in the cabinet or not.

Before leaving Delhi, Dr Abdullah told reporters that the Prime Minister had called him up and told him that a decision on his place in the cabinet would be taken after the Congress sorted out the problems that had cropped up with the DMK.

His son Omar Abdullah, Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, said the NC was not angry and maintained that his party had not demanded anything in return for its support to the UPA government. He said Dr Abdullah was satisfied after the Prime Minister had spoken to him.

He also said that he was running a coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir and could very well understand the kind of problems that Dr Singh must be facing when finalising his cabinet. "This is only the beginning and things will settle down soon," he said.

After the Congress with 206 seats, the Trinamool Congress is the largest constituent of the UPA with 19 seats in the Lok Sabha, followed by the DMK with 18.

Dr Singh was appointed to head the new government by the President on Wednesday after he was chosen the leader of the Congress Parliamentary Party earlier that day. Dr Singh and Ms Gandhi had gone together to meet the President that evening to stake claim on behalf of the UPA to form the next government.

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Manmohan Singh to be sworn in with 19 ministers

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be sworn in for a second term in office by President Pratibha Patil Friday evening along with 19 Cabinet Ministers, including Congress leaders Pranab Mukherjee, P Chidamabaram and A K Antony.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be sworn in for a second term in office by President Pratibha Patil this evening along with 19 Cabinet Ministers, including Congress leaders Pranab Mukherjee, P Chidamabaram and A K Antony, an official announcement said today.

Others being inducted into the cabinet today include Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president Sharad Pawar and Trinamool Congress (TC) chief Mamata Banerjee.
Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister
Dr. Manmohan Singh
Prime Minister
Pranab Mukherjee, Finance Minister
Pranab Mukherjee
Finance Minister
P Chidambaram, Home Minister
P Chidambaram
Home Minister
A K Antony, Defence Minister
A K Antony
Defence Minister
Sharad Pawar
Sharad Pawar
 
Mamata Banerjee, Railways Minister
Mamata Banerjee
Railways Minister
S M Krishna
S M Krishna
 
Ghulam Nabi Azad
Ghulam Nabi Azad
 
Sushil Kumar Shinde
Sushil Kumar Shinde
 
Veerapa Moily
Veerapa Moily
 
Jaipal Reddy
Jaipal Reddy
Kamal Nath
Kamal Nath
Vayalar Ravi
Vayalar Ravi
Meira Kumar
Meira Kumar
Murli Deora
Murli Deora
Kapil Sibal
Kapil Sibal
Ambika Soni
Ambika Soni
B K Handique
B K Handique
Anand Sharma
Anand Sharma
C P Joshi
C P Joshi
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the 19 Cabinet Ministers to be sworn in today.

They are the only two representatives of the allies of the Congress in the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) being sworn in today.

Talks between the Congress and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) had broken down last night over the number of ministerial berths to be given to it and the regional party later announced it would extend support from outside to the UPA government and stay out of the Council of Ministers.

DMK supremo and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, who was camping in the capital for the last three days for negotiations on this issue with the Congress, flew back to Chennai this morning along with some of his party colleagues.

But the Congress insisted the dialogue with the DMK had not stopped and efforts would continue to resolve the issue amicably.

It is because of this issue that the ministry formation exercise could not be completed. The Congress is yet to talk on this issue to some of the other constituents of the UPA.

Though the original plans were to induct about 64 ministers today, it has now been decided to swear in only 19 ministers to begin with and expand the ministry a few days later.

Former Karnataka Chief Ministes  S M Krishna and M Veerappa Moily, former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Ghulam Nabi Azad and other Congress leaders such as Sushil Kumar Shinde will also be sworn in today.

The others to be inducted today are Mr S Jaipal Reddy, Mr Kamal Nath, Mr Vayalar Ravi, Ms Meira Kumar, Mr Murli Deora, Mr Kapil Sibal, Ms Ambika Soni, Mr B K Handique, Mr Anand Sharma---all ministers in the outgoing ministry-- and Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee chief C P Joshi.

Mr Sharma and Mr Handique are ministers of state in the outgoing government and find themselves elevated to cabinet rank now.

"This will be followed in the next few days by an expansion of the Council of Ministers, including other Cabinet Ministers, Ministers of State with independent charge as well other Ministers of State. This expansion will give due representation to allied parties," the statement added.

Interestingly, some veterans in the outgoing Cabinet like Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh, Minorities Affairs Minister A R Antulay and Law and Justice Minister H R Bhardwaj do not find a place in the list of ministers to be sworn in today. Also missing are the names of Water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz, Mines Minister Sis Ram Ola, Heavy Industries Minister Sontosh Mohan Dev and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Minister Mahavir Prasad.

Two other ministers belonging to the Congress, Mani Shankar Aiyar and Shankar Singh Vaghela lost the just-concluded Lok Sabha elections from Tamil Nadu and Gujarat, respectively.

The hours before the swearing-in, scheduled for 1830 hours IST today, were marked by hectic political consultations to resolve the differences between the Congress and the DMK over the number of ministerial berths and the porfolios to be given to the latter.

UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Dr Singh and senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel held discussions about the names of those who will be included in the Council of Ministers and the portfolios to be allocated to them in the background of the breakdown in talks with the DMK.

Last night, the DMK announced that it would not join the Council of Ministers and instead extend support from the outside to the UPA government. It said that the formula proposed by the Congress was not acceptable to it. Later, the Congress said that the DMK wanted much more than what was being offered to it. The party also said that the DMK's announcement did not mean the dialogue between the two had ended.

It must be mentioned here that the DMK is dependent on support from the Congress in the Tamil Nadu legislative assembly and there were reports that the Congress might now ask for places in the state government for its MLAs.

A meeting of the DMK executive has been called in Chennai later today to discuss the issue, sources said.

There were also some hiccups between the Congress and the National Conference (NC), which is also a part of the UPA.

NC leader and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah flew off to South Africa to witness the semi-finals and final of the India Premier League cricket tournament being played there, apparently miffed that he had not been told anything about whether he would be included in the cabinet or not.

Before leaving Delhi, Dr Abdullah told reporters that the Prime Minister had called him up and told him that a decision on his place in the cabinet would be taken after the Congress sorted out the problems that had cropped up with the DMK.

His son Omar Abdullah, Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, said the NC was not angry and maintained that his party had not demanded anything in return for its support to the UPA government. He said Dr Abdullah was satisfied after the Prime Minister had spoken to him.

He also said that he was running a coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir and could very well understand the kind of problems that Dr Singh must be facing when finalising his cabinet. "This is only the beginning and things will settle down soon," he said.

After the Congress with 206 seats, the Trinamool Congress is the largest constituent of the UPA with 19 seats in the Lok Sabha, followed by the DMK with 18.

Dr Singh was appointed to head the new government by President Pratibha Patil on Wednesday after he was chosen the leader of the Congress Parliamentary Party earlier that day. Dr Singh and Ms Gandhi had gone together to meet the President that evening to stake claim on behalf of the UPA to form the next government.

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Hectic consultations ahead of today's swearing-in

Hectic political consultations were underway Friday to resolve differences between the Congress and its allies in the ruling UPA over ministerial berths with only hours to go for the swearing-in of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for a second term in office.

Hectic political consultations were underway here today to resolve differences between the Congress and its allies in the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) over ministerial berths with only hours to go for the swearing-in of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for a second term in office.

UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Dr Singh and senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel were holding discussions about the names of those who will be included in the Council of Ministers and the portfolios to be allocated to them in the background of the breakdown in talks between the Congress and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) over the number of ministerial berths to be allocated to them.

DMK supremo and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, who was camping here for the last three days, flew back to Chennai this morning along with some of his colleagues.

Last night, the DMK announced that it would not join the Council of Ministers and instead extend support from the outside to the UPA government. It said that the formula proposed by the Congress was not acceptable to it. Later, the Congress said that the DMK wanted much more than what was being offered to it. The party also said that the DMK's announcement did not mean the dialogue between the two had ended.

It must be mentioned here that the DMK is dependent on support from the Congress in the Tamil Nadu legislative assembly and there were reports that the Congress might now ask for places in the state government for its MLAs.

A meeting of the DMK executive has been called in Chennai later today to discuss the issue, sources said.

Despite the differences, the DMK MPs present in Delhi would attend the swearing-in ceremony, the sources added.

There were also some hiccups between the Congress and the National Conference (NC), which is also a part of the UPA.

NC leader and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah flew off to South Africa to witness the semi-finals and final of the India Premier League cricket tournament being played there, apparently miffed that he had not been told anything about whether he would be included in the cabinet or not.

Before leaving Delhi, Dr Abdullah told reporters that the Prime Minister had called him up and told him that a decision on his place in the cabinet would be taken after the Congress sorted out the problems that had cropped up with the DMK.

His son Omar Abdullah, Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, said the NC was not angry and maintained that his party had not demanded anything in return for its support to the UPA government. He said Dr Abdullah was satisfied after the Prime Minister had spoken to him.

He also said that he was running a coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir and could very well understand the kind of problems that Dr Singh must be facing when finalising his cabinet. "This is only the beginning and things will settle down soon," he said.

Dr Singh is scheduled to be sworn in by President Pratibha Patil at a ceremony in Rashtrapati Bhavan at 1830 hours today.

It now appears that a small team of ministers would be sworn in along with Dr Singh and that he would go in for an expansion of the Council of Ministers within a few days after sorting out the differences with the partners.

There was no official word from any quarter on the talks between the Congress and the other alliance partners, especially the Trinamool Congress (TC) of Mamata Banerjee and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) of Sharad Pawar.

After the Congress with 206 seats, the TC is the largest constituent of the UPA with 19 seats in the Lok Sabha, followed by the DMK with 18.

There were no indications of any major problem with these partners, and it is likely that Ms Banerjee and Mr Pawar would be among those to be sworn in today.

While the DMK reportedly wanted Information Technology and Communications, Surface Transport, Railways, Health and some other portfolios, the TC was said to be keen on Railways for itself, given the fact that the post was once held by Ms Banerjee.

The party is also said to be interested in Coal and Mines and Steel, areas which are of viital importance to her state, West Bengal. Publicly, Ms Banerjee has been saying that she had no demands.

Meanwhile, it was learnt that the Congress has decided to maintain status quo with several of the allies, that is offer them the same number of berths and the same portfolios as they had in the outgoing government.

This would mean that Mr Pawar would retain Agriculture and Food Processing, his party colleague Praful Patel would get to keep Civil Aviation.

Speculation continued on the composition of the new cabinet. It is widely believed that Mr Pranab Mukherjee would get Finance and Dr Singh would find a new face for the External Affairs ministry. The names doing the rounds include former Karnataka Chief Minister S M Krishna, Commerce Minister Kamal Nath and former Union Minister Karan Singh.

Home Minister P Chidambaram and Defence Minister A K Antony are expected to retain their posts.

There is a chance that Mr Kapil Sibal, who was handling Science and Technology in the outgoing government, would get Human Resource Development.

Mr S Jaipal Reddy, Ms Ambika Soni, Mr Anand Sharma and Mr B K Handique, who are part of the outgoing governemnt, are more or less certain to be included in the new Council of Ministers.

Some of the others who are expected to find places in the Council of Ministers are former Union Minister Salman Khurshid, former UN Under Secretary General Shashi Tharoor, Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Sushil Kumar Shinde and Meira Kumar, and young MPs such as Jyotiraditya Scindia, Sachin Pilot, Jitin Prasada and Naveen Jindal.

Of course, the last word has not yet been said about Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi. The Prime Minister himself has gone on record to say that he had wanted Mr Gandhi in the previous government and would very much like him to be a part of the new ministry. But Mr Gandhi has been saying that he would like to concentrate on party work and help empower the youth of the country.

Dr Singh was appointed to head the new government by President Pratibha Patil on Wednesday after he was chosen the leader of the Congress Parliamentary Party earlier that day. Dr Singh and Ms Gandhi had gone together to meet the President yesterday evening to stake claim on behalf of the UPA to form the next government.

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Alliance blues for UPA ahead of swearing-in

With less than 24 hours to go for PM Manmohan Singh to be sworn in for a second five-year term, his Congress party was grappling Thursday night with the knotty problem of allocation of ministerial berths to its partners in the UPA.

With less than 24 hours to go for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to be sworn in for a second five-year term, his Congress party was grappling tonight with the knotty problem of allocation of ministerial berths to its partners in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA).

Late this evening, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) with 18 MPs, announced that it had decided to stay out of the ministry and extend support from the outside to the government.

DMK leader T R Baalu told reporters that the formula (on the number of ministerial berths) was not acceptable to his party. He said DMK supremo and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, who has been camping here for the past couple of days, had also talked about the issue to Congress President and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi as well as Dr Singh.

He said he had been advised by Mr Karunanidhi to tell the media that the DMK would support the Manmohan Singh government from outside.

Congress spokesman Janardhan Dwivedi told reporters after the announcement that the proposal made by the Congress to the DMK had not been accepted by the latter. "They wanted something more." he said.

According to him, the Congress had offered them "status quo", that is the same number of ministerial berths and the same portfolios as in the outgoing UPA government, but the DMK did not find that acceptable.

But Mr Dwivedi made it clear that the DMK announcement of support from outside did not mean that the dialogue between the two sides had stopped. He said the talks would continue and, later, there were reports that emissaries were trying to help resolve the issue. There were also indications that Ms Gandhi and Dr Singh had talked to Mr Karunanidhi on the telephone.

As of now, the DMK leaders were scheduled to fly back to Chennai tomorrow morning but political observers felt this was part of the hard bargaining tactics the party had adopted to get what it wanted.

It might be relevant to point out here that the DMK is dependent on the support of the Congress in the Tamil Nadu assembly.

There was no official word from any quarter on the talks between the Congress and the other alliance partners, especially the Trinamool Congress (TC) of Mamata Banerjee and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) of Sharad Pawar.

After the Congress with 206 seats, the TC is the largest constituent of the UPA with 19 seats in the Lok Sabha, followed by the DMK with 18.

There were reports suggesting that Ms Banerjee was also driving a hard bargain and insisting that her party should get the same number of berths as the DMK plus one.

While the DMK reportedly wanted Information Technology and Communications, Surface Transport, Railways, Health and some other portfolios, the TC was said to be keen on Railways for itself, given the fact that the post was once held by Ms Banerjee. The party is also said to be interested in Coal and Mines and Steel, areas which are of viital importance to her state, West Bengal. Publicly, Ms Banerjee has been saying that she had no demands.

Meanwhile, it was learnt that the Congress has decided to maintain status quo with several of the allies, that is offer them the same number of berths and the same portfolios as they had in the outgoing government.

This would mean that Mr Pawar would retain Agriculture and Food Processing, his party colleague Praful Patel would get to keep Civil Aviation.

Speculation continued on the composition of the new cabinet. It is widely believed that Mr Pranab Mukherjee would get Finance and Dr Singh would find a new face for the External Affairs ministry. The names doing the rounds include former Karnataka Chief Minister S M Krishna, Commerce Minister Kamal Nath and former Union Minister Karan Singh.

Home Minister P Chidambaram and Defence Minister A K Antony are expected to retain their posts.

There is a chance that Mr Kapil Sibal, who was handling Science and Technology in the outgoing government, would get Human Resource Development.

Some of the others who are expected to find places in the Council of Ministers are former Union Minister Salman Khurshid, former UN Under Secretary General Shashi Tharoor, former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Sushil Kumar Shinde and Meira Kumar, and young MPs such as Jyotiraditya Scindia, Sachin Pilot, Jitin Prasada and Naveen Jindal.

Of course, the last word has not yet been said about Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi. The Prime Minister himself has gone on record to say that he had wanted Mr Gandhi in the previous government and would very much like him to be a part of the new ministry. But Mr Gandhi has been saying that he would like to concentrate on party work and help empower the youth of the country.

As of now, the Prime Minister is expected to take office tomorrow with 64 other ministers. The swearing-in is scheduled for 1730 hours.

Dr Singh was appointed to head the new government by President Pratibha Patil yesterday after he was chosen the leader of the Congress Parliamentary Party earlier in the day. Dr Singh and Ms Gandhi had gone together to meet the President yesterday evening to stake claim on behalf of the UPA to form the next government.

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Manmohan Singh to be sworn in for second term Friday

Dr Manmohan Singh will be sworn in for a second straight term as Prime Minister of India on Friday, an official announcement said here Wednesday.

Dr Manmohan Singh will be sworn in for a second straight term as Prime Minister of India on Friday, an official announcement said here today.

President Pratibha Patil has appointed him as the Prime Minister and requested him to indicate the members of the new Council of Ministers, a Rashtrapati Bhavan communique said.
President Pratibha Patil with the Prime Minister-Designate, Dr. Manmohan Singh and the UPA Chairperson, Sonia Gandhi, after inviting Dr. Manmohan Singh to form the new government, at Rashtrapati Bhavan, in New Delhi May 20, 2009.
President Pratibha Patil with the Prime Minister-Designate, Dr. Manmohan Singh and the UPA Chairperson, Sonia Gandhi, after inviting Dr. Manmohan Singh to form the new government, at Rashtrapati Bhavan, in New Delhi May 20, 2009.

The timing of the swearing-in ceremony will be announced later.

Earlier, Dr Singh, who had been chosen yesterday as the Leader of the Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP), accompanied by CPP Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, had called on the President at 1700 hours today.

They staked claim on behalf of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) to form the next government after having won a clear mandate in the just-concluded elections to the Lok Sabha. They also handed over to the President letters of support extended to them by various political parties and others.

"The President having satisfied herself, on the basis of various letters of support received, that the Congress-led UPA alliance, which is also the largest pre-election alliance, is in a position to command majority support of the newly constituted 15th Lok Sabha and to form a stable Government, appointed Dr. Manmohan Singh as the Prime Minister and requested him to indicate the members of the new Council of Ministers," the communique said.

"The President will administer Oaths of Office and Secrecy on Friday, 22nd May, 2009 at a mutually convenient time which will be decided soon," it added.

Both Ms Gandhi and Dr Singh talked briefly to reporters on emerging from Rashtrapati Bhavan after the meeting. Ms Gandhi said she had informed the President that Dr Singh had been chosen leader of the CPP. Dr Singh said he apprised the President of the support extended to the UPA allies by various parties. He said the UPA had 274 members in the Lok Sabha on its side. With the support from outside extended to it by parties such as the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Samajwadi Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the number of MPs backing the alliance added up to 322, he said.

Dr Singh also read out to reporters the letter given to him by the President inviting him to form the next government.

The President has not asked Dr Singh to prove his majority in the Lok Sabha, obviously convinced of the support he enjoyed in the house.

Earlier this morning, UPA leaders met at the residence of Ms Gandhi and formally re-elected her as the chairperson of the alliance. Her name was proposed by Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) leader M Karunanidhi and seconded by Trinamool (TC) president Mamata Banerjee.

The TC with 19 seats in the newly-elected Lok Sabha and the DMK with 18 members are the two largest constituents of the UPA after the Congress, which has won 206 seats.

With several other parties outside the alliance, such as the Samajwadi Party (23), the Bahujan Samaj Party (21) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (4), also extended support from outside to the UPA, the alliance has the backing of about 314 of the 543 elected members of the Lower House of Parliament, much more than the 272 needed for a simple majority.

The Lok Sabha has 545 members in all, including two members of the Anglo-Indian community nominated by the President.

Among others who attended the UPA meeting were Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi and other party leaders such as Pranab Mukherjee, Ahmed Patel, P Chidambaram and A K Antony, Mr Dayanidhi Maran of the DMK, Mr Sharad Pawar and Mr Praful Patel of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Mr Farooq Abdullah of the National Conference (NC), Mr Shibu Soren of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), Mr E Ahamed of the Muslim League and Mr K M Mani of the Kerala Congress (Mani).

Ms Gandhi told the meeting that the mandate received by the alliance from the people in the just-concluded elections had cast a great responsibility onthe UPA. She sought the cooperation of the UPA constituents to provide a strong and effective government that would work for the welfare of all sections.

Dr Singh referred to the promises made to the people by the alliance and the importance of delivering on them.

He said the policies and flagship programmes implemented by the UPA government in its first five-year term would be continued into the second term. He said internal security would be accorded high priority by the new government.

Leaders of the other UPA constituents who spoke at the meeting stressed the need for providing a strong, stable and effective government that would work for the welfare of all sections, especially the poor.

The meeting decided to set up a committee to study the election manifestoes of the constituent parties and work out a common programme.

Yesterday, the Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP) had met and chosen Dr Singh as its leader again. The 76-year-old economist-turned-politician will also be the leader of the Rajya Sabha, being a member of the Upper House from Assam.

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