New Delhi: The government will negotiate the coming few weeks when the next general elections will likely be announced and when it will present its interim rail budget as well the interim budget with an interim leader.
Heart ailment: Manmohan Singh is set to be operated upon on Saturday. Vijay Verma / PTI
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is set to undergo a bypass operation on Saturday and is expected to be out of action for around a month. The country’s external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee will chair cabinet meetings and hold additional charge as finance minister during Singh’s absence.
A political analyst said no Indian Prime Minister has been away from office for such an extended period.
“The President of India, as advised by the Prime Minister, has directed that Pranab Mukherjee...is assigned the additional charge of ministry of finance from 24 January until the recovery of the Prime Minister from medical treatment,” said a statement from Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Singh has held the finance portfolio after finance minister P. Chidambaram was named the home minister in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks, which forced then home minister Shivraj Patil to resign.
“Mukherjee will present the interim budget on 16 February in Parliament. This additional responsibility is purely an interim arrangement till the Prime Minister comes back to office,” said a Congress leader, who did not want to be named.
According to political analyst and columnist T.V.R. Shenoy, Singh would be the first Prime Minister to be away from work for such a long period. “It is significant now because he is also the finance minister and there are many crucial economic decisions to be taken,” he said.
According to an official note from the Prime Minister’s office, “The surgery would be performed by a team of doctors drawn from the AIIMS and the Asian Heart Institute, Mumbai. They would be supported by a team of doctors and technical staff drawn from other departments of AIIMS”.
Singh had undergone a coronary artery bypass surgery in the UK in 1990.