New Delhi: Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee on Sunday set out the blueprint for the government’s economic policies in a meeting held at his residence with top ministry officials even as the ruling Congress party resolved a three-day row over cabinet berths with its key ally, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, or DMK.
At the meeting, attended by chief economic adviser Arvind Virmani and finance secretary Ashok Chawla, it was decided that Mukherjee, in consultation with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, would prepare an approach paper on how to tackle the current economic slowdown and set the direction for economic policies.
According to a person familiar with the development who didn’t want to be identified, the key issues that are to be addressed in the paper will be “employment, growth, exports, manufacturing sectors and infrastructure”.
“The new government’s 100-day action plan and the next Union budget will be on the basis of this paper,” the official added.
Meanwhile, after three days of intense negotiations, the DMK on Sunday agreed to the Congress party’s offer of three cabinet berths in the United Progressive Alliance, or UPA, government, at least two Congress leaders said.
DMK chief and Tamil Nadu chief minister M. Karunanidhi’s elder son M.K. Azhagiri and grand-nephew Dayanidhi Maran, and close family associate A. Raja are expected to be inducted as cabinet ministers, the Congress politicians said. But senior DMK leader and former Union minister T.R. Baalu will not be part of the cabinet, they said.
The Prime Minister is expected to expand his cabinet in the next few days.
The two Congress leaders, who didn’t want to be identified, said the DMK will not be given any “infrastructure” ministries such as road transport and highways.
There was no official announcement from either the Congress or the DMK. According to a person close to the talks with the DMK, Karunanidhi is still in discussions with Baalu, who is apparently upset with the decision. Baalu didn’t respond to phone calls seeking comment.
Last Thursday, upset by the Congress’ reluctance to offer the four cabinet posts he had sought for the DMK, Karunanidhi, who was then in New Delhi, said his party would offer only outside support to the UPA and not join the government. He flew back to Chennai on Friday, hours before Manmohan Singh was sworn in as Prime Minister.
Strategy maker:Pranab Mukherjee, in consultation with the Prime Minister, will prepare an approach paper on how to tackle the current economic slowdown as well as set the direction for economic policies. Subhav Shukla / PTI
Singh was forced to take the oath along with a mini cabinet of 19 members, including just two from Congress allies—Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar and Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee.
The portfolios of six ministers were announced on Saturday.
The DMK’s decision ended the stalemate between the ruling party and its second largest ally, clearing the way for a cabinet expansion expected on Tuesday.
The two Congress leaders said the DMK will also get four posts in the council of ministers.
The DMK, a crucial pre-poll Congress ally which has 18 members in the Lok Sabha, may get ministries such as information technology and chemicals and fertilizers.
Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress, which won 19 seats in the Lok Sabha, is expected to get six ministers of state included in the council of ministers.
The Congress leaders also said the Prime Minister may include some 50 more members in his ministerial council. Among Congress members, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Jitin Prasada (both were ministers in the previous government) and Sachin Pilot, who are members of the Congress party’s younger generation, are expected to be inducted.
Smaller allies such as the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) and the National Conference (NC) will also find a place in the ministry.
Another Congress leader, who was a minister in the previous government, said the ruling party is keen to have its own speaker after a gap of 11 years. Although the DMK staked its claim for the post, the Congress may choose its five-term member V. Kishore Chandra Deo from Andhra Pradesh’s Parvathipuram, a constituency reserved for scheduled tribes.
Election to the speaker’s post will take place on 3 June, two days after the 15th Lok Sabha meets. President Pratibha Patil will address a joint session of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha on 4 June, in which she will outline the policies and agenda for the new government.
The first session, which will have seven sittings, will be followed by the budget session in early July. The budget is to be presented in the backdrop of the economic slowdown after five years of record economic growth of 8.8%.
The slowdown has begun to hurt government revenue collection. Growth in tax revenue during the five years of record economic growth was largely responsible for giving the previous UPA government resources to fund its social sector programmes, including the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. The next budget would have to find ways to enhance government’s revenue as the Congress’ election manifesto had promised to increase the scope of social sector programmes.
Sanjiv Shankaran contributed to this story.