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Race for ministerships in Congress

George Iype in New Delhi | May 14, 2004 16:28 IST

A day after becoming the single largest party in the general election, the Congress started talking to its allies and Left parties to form a coalition government.

But a scramble has also begun among Congress leaders over who would get into the Council of Ministers.

"It is after eight years that we are coming back to power. Everyone wants to be a minister," a Congress leader at the party headquarters -- 24, Akbar Road, New Delhi -- said.

In fact, with the party out of power, its HQ has not got a fresh coat for some years. But it will soon be painted white.

The newly elected members of Parliament have started pouring into the capital with ministerial ambitions.

Treasurer Motilal Vora, who is spending long hours in the office, says it is "too early to talk about who will be ministers. Let us first of all talk to all like-minded, secular parties and form a coalition government. Who all will be ministers is the prerogative of the new prime minister," Vora told

But at the party HQ and homes of party leaders, various names are circulating.

Those certain to be inducted into the government if and when party president Sonia Gandhi takes over as prime minister are Dr Manmohan Singh, Pranab Mukherjee, K Natwar Singh, Ambika Soni, Ahmed Patel, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Kapil Sibal and Priyaranjan Dasmunshi.

Among the hopefuls are S Jaipal Reddy, Mani Shankar Aiyar, Meira Kumar, Renuka Chowdhary, Anand Sharma, Shankarsinh Vaghela, Jagdish Tytler, Sajjan Kumar and Kumari Selja.

Congress leaders say the new prime minister will have to perform a real balancing act.

First of all, s/he will have to apportion a sizeable number of posts to states where the party performed extremely well. They include Andhra Pradesh (29 seats), Maharashtra (13), Gujarat (12), Tamil Nadu (10), Haryana (9), Jharkhand (6) and Himachal Pradesh (3) plus the National Capital Territory of Delhi (6).

Secondly, the new prime minister will have to accommodate younger leaders.

While Congressmen believe that young leaders like Jyotiraditya Scindia, son of the late Congress leader Madhavrao Scindia, will be inducted, everyone is asking whether Rahul Gandhi, Sonia's son, will get a ministerial berth.

Those loyal to the Gandhi family have begun pressing for Rahul's induction into the government.

Then there are the allies.

Former finance minister and ex-Congressman Palaniappan Chidambaram, who won from Tamil Nadu with Congress support, will want to be part of the government.

Allies like the Nationalist Congress Party and Rashtriya Janata Dal are certain to bargain for key ministries.

If the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam changes its stand of support from outside and decides to join the government -- senior Congress leader and former AP chief minister N Janardhan Reddy is in Chennai for talks with DMK leader M Karunanidhi on this issue -- its leaders will need to be accommodated too.

NCP chief Sharad Pawar could demand the defence portfolio, if not the deputy prime ministership.

RJD president Laloo Prasad Yadav would also demand the deputy prime ministership or important ministries like home or defence.

Then there are others like the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and Pattali Makkal Katchi, who could  demand their pound of flesh.

The Left -- the second largest group in the Lok Sabha with 63 seats -- is likely to support the Congress government from outside.

"We have decided to support a Congress-led government. But we have not decided the kind of support that we will provide to the new government," Communist Party of India National Secretary Doraiswamy Raja told

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