Pranab is finance minister, Krishna gets external affairs (Lead)

May 23rd, 2009 - 5:00 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, May 23 (IANS) Veteran Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee was Saturday named India’s finance minister while former Karnataka chief minister S.M. Krishna took charge of the foreign ministry as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh allotted portfolios to six of his 19 cabinet ministers, a day after taking oath at the head of a new Congress-led government.
P. Chidambaram and A.K. Antony have retained their home and defence ministries respectively, according to a statement from President Pratibha Patil’s office. Chidambaram had taken charge of the home ministry after the audacious terror attack on Mumbai in November last year.

From among the two allies now in the multi-party government, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee is the new minister of railways. With 19 MPs, the Trinamool is the second largest party in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) after the Congress.

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Sharad Pawar, the seniormost politician in the government after Mukherjee, got to keep his ministries of agriculture, food and civil supplies as well as public distribution and consumer affairs.

According to an official announcement, Manmohan Singh will look after all other ministries until more ministers are inducted into what will be a three-tier ministry.

Another group of ministers, including ministers of state, are expected to take oath of office and secrecy Tuesday.

The portfolio allocation kick-starts the functioning of the new government, which followed keenly contested general elections that the Congress swept, winning an unexpected 206 seats in the 545-member Lok Sabha. Along with its allies in and outside the government, it enjoys majority in parliament.

The work allocation came soon after Manmohan Singh presided over a meeting of his new cabinet, which now has 19 ministers, all of whom took oath of office and secrecy Friday.

Manmohan Singh is believed to have got Mukherjee, who has won his second straight Lok Sabha election from West Bengal, to steer the finance ministry at a time when the prime minister has vowed to pursue a more inclusive agenda in his economic policies.

Krishna, who played a key role in transforming Bangalore as India’s IT capital, has been given the responsibility of managing India’s foreign affairs at a time when India’s relations with Pakistan is poised delicately over the involvement of Pakistanis in the Mumbai attack that killed over 170 people.

Chidambaram, who has vowed to turn around the intelligence agencies, gets to retain the powerful home ministry. Antony, who is regarded highly in the defence establishment, will continue to be the defence minister.

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