PM to keep finance till end of monsoon session

Despite the itch for change within the union cabinet, the reshuffle is not likely to take place before the end of the monsoon session of Parliament, that is sometime in the middle of August. Two vacancies already exist in the cabinet, following Pranab Mukherjee resigning as the finance minister to contest presidential elections and the minister for small and medium enterprises Virbhadra Singh putting in his paper after his name figured in a corruption case.

This means that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will keep the finance portfolio with himself during the crucial session, around the time when the government is expected to pilot some of big-ticket economic reforms. Indications to this effect have already come from the media briefings of the Planning Commission deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia and the prime minister's chief economic advisor Kaushik Basu.

Sources in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said that as long as the prime minister holds this portfolio, he will table the legislations, if necessary at all, in Parliament. They also indicated that some reforms could come through the executive route, without involving Parliament. In such situation either the prime minister or the minister of state in the PMO V Narayanasamy will respond to queries in Parliament.

Sources in the Congress told Millennium Post that since the monsoon session will be preceded by the presidential poll, the whole energy of the party and government will be directed to obtain an impressive victory rather that go for a reshuffle. 'This also suits the prime minister, who now wants to give a big push to revive the economy and will like to take credit for it too,' said a Congress leader.

While there may be more than a month before the reshuffle takes place, several top leaders in the party have already started staking their claims. The rural development minister Jairam Ramesh in a letter addressed to the Congress president Sonia Gandhi and the party general secretary Rahul Gandhi has suggested ways to fix the economy. In short, he wants to be made the finance minister.

'There is also the name of power minister Sushil Kumar Shinde being considered for the post of the leader of the house in the Lok Sabha,' added the source.


The draft guidelines issued by the finance ministry on the General Anti-Avoidance Rules [GAAR] appeared to have got caught in a controversy with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh distancing himself from it by saying that he had not approved them.

After the guidelines were issued by the finance ministry, which is under Singh’s direct charge now, the Prime Minister’s Office [PMO] issued a statement asserting that a final call on GAAR will be taken by the prime minister after proper feedback. ‘[The draft guidelines] have not been seen by the Prime Minister and will be finalised with the approval of the Prime Minister, who holds the Finance portfolio, only after considering the feedback received,’ the PMO release said.

Its suo motu comment came after the finance ministry on Thursday issued draft guidelines on GAAR – a budgetary proposal to check tax evasion – to seek feedback of the stake holders.
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