New Delhi: Manmohan Singh will be sworn in for a second term as prime minister on Friday after a key southern ally said it would leave the ruling alliance due to a row over ministerial positions.
The Congress-led coalition won a clear victory in the general election and has raised hopes of greater economic reforms.
The regional Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) party from Tamil Nadu said it would offer its 18 MPs only as outside support to the coalition, potentially weakening the government’s ability to pass bills in Parliament.
Singh’s Congress party, which heads the coalition, will likely retain key ministerial portfolios such as finance but several of its allies were also demanding important portfolios, causing disagreements.
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The Congress party says it had the support of 274 lawmakers before the DMK exit, two more than needed for a parliamentary majority, and was preparing for the swearing-in ceremony.
“We have support of 322 parliamentarians and we are not worried about falling short at all,” Janardhan Dwivedi, a senior Congress leader, said.
A soft-spoken economist, 76-year-old Singh will be sworn in by President Pratibha Patil around 6:30 pm on Friday.
Meanwhile, DMK chief M Karunanidhi and his entourage will leave for Chennai where they will hold the party’s executive meeting to discuss the breakdown in talks over portfolio allocation for the party in the new government.
Dwivedi had on Thursday night reacted that the DMK was asking for too much and they should be more reasonable.
Sources said the Prime Minister was said to be against inclusion of TR Baalu and A Raja, a stand the DMK is said to be resisting.
Congress sources said that party president Sonia Gandhi and the Prime Minister had discussions till early hours Friday morning and decided to renegotiate with DMK.
Gandhi and Singh also made calls to Karunanidhi late Thursday night in their last ditch attempt to mollify the Dravidian leader.
During the meeting at PM’s residence, the Congress president took stock of the situation after DMK bargained hard for more berths in the Union council of ministers.
The DMK is learnt to have demanded portfolios like shipping, surface transport, communications and environment.
Sonia and Singh discussed names from both Congress and its pre-poll allies for cabinet berths and allocation of portfolios to the council of ministers.
The Indian stock market surged earlier this week as investors welcomed Singh’s strong mandate, which raised expectations for aggressive economic reforms at a time when growth in Asia’s third largest economy has slowed to 6.5%.
Unfettered by their former leftist allies, Congress is expected to push reforms such as raising the foreign investment limit in insurance and opening up the pension sector.
Besides the slowdown, Singh’s second term will face an array of challenges such as fraught relations with old rival Pakistan after the Mumbai attacks and a potential showdown with wealthier countries at the Doha world trade talks.
In a possible reshuffle within Congress, foreign minister and party stalwart Pranab Mukherjee may again take over the finance ministry portfolio, a post he held in the 1980s.
Science and technology minister Kapil Sibal has been tipped by some media reports to assume Mukherjee’s post, while the home minister P Chidambaram, who took over after the Mumbai attacks, will likely stay in his post.