Unhappy with Pranab, PM wants FinMin once again
In case finance minister Pranab Mukherjee gets the nod from Sonia Gandhi to contest the presidential polls as UPA nominee, prime minister (PM) Manmohan Singh is expected to play a proactive role in the affairs of the North Block. There is talk in PMO circles that the PM will keep the finance portfolio for himself once Mukherjee demits office. Singh wants C Rangarajan, former Reserve Bank governor and now chairperson of the Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council, to play a key role in managing the affairs of the finance ministry.
The PM would not have hesitated in making Rangarajan the finance minister, but that may prove to be difficult because senior Congress leaders who aspire to get the coveted job may block that move.
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It is more than apparent that the rift between the PMO and the finance ministry has widened in recent months. Singh has been unhappy with Mukherjee's performance and some of his ideas which are considered to be "archaic". Though the PM has not expressed his dissatisfaction with the powerful finance minister on any public forum, it is a known fact that he believes Mukherjee has not been able to cope with the adverse impact of the global crisis on the Indian economy and has not managed the situation well.
That is the reason why Singh wants to step in and prove that he is still capable of doing a 1991 all over again. He wants Rangarajan to be his general in the war against recession and painfully slow economic growth. Singh is certain that he is not coming back for another term as PM even if the UPA scores an unlikely victory in 2014 and therefore would like to leave behind a legacy of good governance in the last 24 months before his term ends.
In fact, there is no sign of any panic in the PMO now that there is an increasing possibility of Mukherjee leaving his job for the prestigious Raisina Hill address. The PMO has noted how Mukherjee has been enthusiastically building his case for the presidential assignment and is eager to let go off his many responsibilities. The PMO believes gone are the days when nobody would even dream of a government running without Mukherjee's towering presence.
In recent months, his mishandling of a number of tricky issues has diminished his indispensability to the government.
Of course, the PM may not have his way as Sonia Gandhi will have to take the final call. After the crucial Congress Working Committee meeting on June 4, she is leaving for an undisclosed destination for a week-long medical check-up. Congress sources said that the three presidential nominees have been shortlisted. The UPA chairperson, in fact, has almost made up her mind about the final nominee. The Congress will keep it a closely-guarded secret till it finishes a renewed process of consultation with UPA allies.
Mukherjee's name figures in that list, but it is still not clear if Sonia Gandhi will be convinced to let him go. It is likely that by the middle of June, when the date for notification of the presidential polls arrives, it will be apparent who the contestants are. After all, the BJP has shelved its decision on the NDA nominee for Rashtrapati Bhavan because it is still waiting for the Congress to come up with a name. It is evident, however, that in the event of Mukherjee getting the green signal, Manmohan Singh will take charge of the economy.
All is not well
Manmohan Singh is unhappy with the way Pranab Mukherjee has handled the adverse impact of the global crisis on the Indian economy
Though the PM has not spoke against Mukherjee openly, some of the finance minister’s ideas are considered archaic
The PM wants to take charge of the finance ministry if Mukherjee is selected as presidential candidate and wants former RBI governor C Rangarajan to play a proactive role
Singh believes he can do a 1991 again and wants to leave an impact in his last two years as prime minister
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