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Congress may give 40 berths to allies

May 20, 2004 07:55 IST

With maximum 82 ministerial berths (15 per cent of the Lok Sabha) to fill up, lists began circulating in the Congress on Wednesday about who would be inducted into the government and who would be available for party work. At least 40 ministerial berths will go to the allies. 
Staying in the party has already become a status symbol, with many vying to work closely with Congress President Sonia Gandhi, who is expected to run the party as a fulltime job. Rahul Gandhi has indicated that he will prefer to work in the party rather than join the government. 
Sources in the Congress say a shake-up in the organisation will take place soon, as some members of Parliament like Vayalar Ravi (Kerala), Anand Sharma (Himachal Pradesh) and Ghulam Nabi Azad (J&K) are expected to join the government. 
The party general secretaries, Ambika Soni, Oscar Fernandes and Ahmad Patel, are likely to stay on in the party. Young people like Naveen Jindal, Milind Deora and Sachin Pilot are likely to represent a pressure group of the youth in the party. 
Arjun Singh, Pranab Mukherjee, K Natwar Singh, Kamal Nath, Mani Shankar Aiyar, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Selja, Preneet Kaur, Renuka Choudhary, Subodh Kant Sahay and Kapil Sibal may become ministers. There is overwhelming demand from the party to make P Chidambaram a minister, something both Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi appreciate because of Chidambaram's proven talent. 
Uttaranchal Chief Minister ND Tiwari's name was circulating for the post of deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, a post he had held once before and because the job was held by a Kumaoni, KC Pant, earlier. 
Sonia Gandhi has indicated earlier that she will like a young-looking government. The problem is many young MPs have been elected for the first time and are unfamiliar with government responsibility. Still, men like Ajay Maken may be made junior ministers. 
The sticking point is the Finance Minister's job. While Manmohan Singh is almost certain to draft a professional from outside, like former Reserve Bank of India Governor C Rangarajan, the party will try to fight it. It is possible that Singh may keep finance and rely on the bureaucracy to help run the ministry, at least for the time being.

India Votes 2004

Aditi Phadnis in New Delhi