Who will be the new finance minister? Three names doing the roundsDecember 7th, 2008 - 3:48 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, Dec 7 (IANS) Hunt is on for a new finance minister with the names of S.M. Krishna, C. Rangarajan and Kapil Sibal under consideration in the wake of P. Chidambaram’s shift to the home ministry.Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, more comfortable with bureaucrats and technocrats, would ideally like Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia to take over finance. But this is something not acceptable to the Congress party, say well placed sources.
For the same reason, the Congress would have reservations about C. Rangarajan, former governor of the Reserve Bank of India, who has headed the prime minister’s Economic Advisory Council.
The Congress would like to elevate a politician to the position.
Though Manmohan Singh took over the finance portfolio in the wake of Shivraj Patil’s resignation as home minister and Chidambaram’s move to home following the terror strike in Mumbai, he would like a full time finance minister, party sources say.
The prime minister already has charge of three weighty ministries - coal, after the exit of Shibu Soren who has taken over as chief minister of Jharkhand, information and broadcasting after the illness of Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi, and environment and forests.
As things stand, the government may go in for vote on account in February, rather than a full budget, on the eve of general elections. But finance entails a very heavy load, the sources say. This is even more urgent now with a full-blown economic crisis the world over with India not being spared either from its fallout.
The name of S.M. Krishna, former chief minister of Karnataka, is doing the rounds for finance. His name was also under consideration for home minister after Shivraj Patil’s resignation, but the party decided to plump for Chidambaram instead.
Then there is Kapil Sibal - the prime minister enjoys a sense of comfort with him - but he is being considered too junior by the party.
It is said that 10, Janpath (residence of Congress president Sonia Gandhi) was wary of both External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh - both names were under consideration - for home minister because they are considered politically astute and “may do a Narasimha Rao on Sonia Gandhi” and outsmart her.
The prime minister has not been enthusiastic about giving finance to Pranab Mukherjee, even though Manmohan Singh has relied heavily on Mukherjee in the last four years to run his government, and made him head of the 50 plus Group of Ministers (GOMs). It has been a government that has ruled through GOMs.
Whenever the question of a cabinet reshuffle has come up for discussion during the last three years, the idea of Mukherjee as either home minister or as finance minister has not found favour.
Mukherje is identified with a left-of-centre image. He was not given finance even in 1991 when P.V. Narasimha Rao became prime minister and opened up the economy, choosing Manmohan Singh as his finance minister to lead the process of reforms.
Left to himself, the “non-political” prime minister is happier working with bureaucrats than with politicians. He has given cabinet and minister of state status to almost as many bureaucrats and technocrats as to the politicians in his government.
These include those heading the Economic Advisory Council, National Knowledge Commission, National Disaster Management Authority, Inter State Council, National Manufacturing Competitiveness Council, to name a few. And of course, the powerful National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan.