India to get biggest cabinet in 10 years

India to get biggest cabinet in 10 years
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First Published: Wed, May 27 2009. 11 28 PM IST
Updated: Wed, May 27 2009. 11 28 PM IST
New Delhi: India will have one minister for every seven members of Parliament in the Lok Sabha and almost one for every three representatives of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in the House.
On Thursday, 14 cabinet ministers, seven ministers with independent charge and 38 ministers of state (MoS) are expected to be sworn in, according to a release from the Prime Minister’s Office. This will take the size of the new council of ministers to 79, including the Prime Minister. That will make this the largest cabinet in at least 10 years.
In 1999, the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led National Democratic Alliance government entered office with 69 ministers and in 2004, the UPA with 67.
Details of the portfolios of these ministers, as well as some who were sworn in earlier, weren’t immediately available and some analysts said an announcement on these could take some more time.
To be sure, not everyone who has already been sworn in, or will be on Thursday is a member of the Lok Sabha. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, for instance, isn’t.
Of the 59 ministers who will be inducted on Thursday, 42 are from the Congress, taking the total number of ministers from the party to 60, including the Prime Minister.
Differences of opinion with a key ally Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) over cabinet berths delayed the process. And a Congress leader, who did not want to be identified said the swearing-in of the ministers did not happen on Wednesday as the party was observing the death anniversary of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister. The UPA’s slow progress in forming the government was termed a “patch-up” job by Yashwant Sinha, the country’s former finance minister and a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party. “Even after a so-called decisive mandate for the Congress-led UPA, it has taken so much time for the council of ministers to be formed which has sent a message to the people that the UPA remains an opportunistic alliance...all expectations of it being a small, cohesive and efficient team have unfortunately not been met.”
Prominent names among those set to be sworn in from the Congress on Thursday include G.K. Vasan (Tamil Nadu), Kumari Selja (Haryana) and Rajya Sabha member M.S. Gill from Punjab. The National Conference’s Farooq Abdullah (Jammu and Kashmir), and DMK’s Dayanidhi Maran, A. Raja and M.K. Azhagiri (Tamil Nadu) are also set to be sworn in.
Virbhadra Singh, a former chief minister of Himachal Pradesh, and Vilasrao Deshmukh, former chief minister of Maharashtra who was sacked after the 26/11 terror strikes in Mumbai, will also be part of the new cabinet. While Singh has been elected to the Lok Sabha from Mandi, Deshmukh is not a member of either houses of Parliament.
Deshmukh’s induction was criticized by Sinha: “In trying to accommodate all interests and addressing regional problems like that of Maharashtra, the Congress has given an impression that it is trying to solve many problems in one stroke.” Shashi Tharoor, former under-secretary general of United Nations, who was elected on a Congress ticket from Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, will also be sworn in as MoS and is likely to be in charge of the Prime Minister’s Office. Prithviraj Chavan, who held this post in the previous government has been elevated to the position of an MoS with independent charge. And the Nationalist Congress Party’s (NCP) Praful Patel, who will take oath as an MoS with independent charge, is expected to retain his civil aviation portfolio. Others being sworn in as MoS with an independent charge include Congress leaders Sriprakash Jaiswal, Dinsha Patel, Jairam Ramesh, Salman Khurshid, and Krishna Tirath.
The list of ministers who will be sworn in on Thursday also includes young representatives such as the Congress’ Jyotiraditya Scindia (Madhya Pradesh, 38), Sachin Pilot (Rajasthan, 31), and Jitin Prasada (Uttar Pradesh, 36) and NCP’s Agatha Sangma (Meghalaya, 28), all of whom will be MoS.
Thursday’s swearing-in will mark one step in the completion of the formation of the new government. Last week, Singh and 19 cabinet ministers were sworn in. The list included Pranab Mukherjee (finance), Sharad Pawar, (agriculture), A.K. Antony (defence), P. Chidambaram (home), Mamata Banerjee (railways) and S.M. Krishna (external affairs).
liz.m@livemint.com
PTI contributed to this story.
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First Published: Wed, May 27 2009. 11 28 PM IST