Prime Minister-elect Manmohan Singh will be sworn in for a second term on Friday after the election victory of his Congress party-led coalition, which has since won the support of enough lawmakers for a parliamentary majority.
The following is a round-up, based on local media reports and Congress party officials’ comments, of politicians likely to head key ministries.
Sources say former foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee, who has also held the finance portfolio, will return to his old job.
Mukherjee is seen as a stable hand and shrewd political operator. He has a history of pushing reforms, including signing up to a WTO agreement giving nations more access to global trade in 1994 when he was commerce minister.
But, with India facing its slowest growth in six years and a yawning fiscal deficit, Singh, himself a reform-minded former finance minister, could bring in a specialist.
Names cited include Montek Singh Ahluwalia, deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, and C. Rangarajan, a former central bank governor and an economic adviser to the prime minister.
COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY
Kamal Nath, who has played a key role as a negotiator for emerging nations in the struggling Doha round of global trade talks, may stay on as commerce and industry minister.
But Nath also could be named foreign minister, some TV channels said, and Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal could replace him in trade.
India’s pro-farmer stand in the Doha round is unlikely to change significantly. But under Nath India may be more inclined to offer concessions in opening up its market to foreign participation after leftist influence in government has ended.
One contender could be Sibal, a reform-minded politician with a suave image that could go down well in foreign capitals.
Some media say senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid may also be considered. The Oxford-educated Khurshid was junior foreign minister from 1993-1996.
Palaniappan Chidambaram may stay. He is seen as having successfully revamped India’s security apparatus after last November’s Mumbai attacks.
A.K. Antony, seen as an honest politician and another safe pair of hands with billions of dollars of arms deals in the pipeline, could keep his post.
TELECOMS & IT
Dayanidhi Maran and Andimuthu Raja, former telecoms ministers in the last government and both from key Congress party ally DMK, are the top contenders for this post.
Maran carried out reforms when he was telecoms minister in the last Congress government and now faces the difficult task of a multi-billion dollar auction of third-generation spectrum that will allow users to have fast internet on their mobile phones. The auction was to be in January but has been delayed.
INFORMATION & BROADCASTING
Local reports suggest Rahul Gandhi, heir-apparent of the Congress party, may be offered this position, regarded as a stepping stone for a man seen as a future prime minister.
The portfolio has added importance with the government expected to raise the foreign investment limit in the print media to 49 percent from the current 26 percent.
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