Is Antony new No. 2 in govt?


In the race for the number two slot in the Union Cabinet, defence minister A.K. Antony seemed to have surged ahead of Union home minister P. Chidambaram.

Talk of Mr Antony replacing UPA presidential candidate and former finance minister Pranab Mukherjee as number two in the Union Cabinet picked up pace with the defence minister being allocated the seat next to the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, at Thursday’s Cabinet meeting.

On Wednesday, this newspaper reported that the race was on between Mr Chidambaram and Mr Antony for the number two slot. This particular seat was reserved for Mr Mukherjee. As is usually followed, the seat next to the Prime Minister on the left side was occupied by Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth.

Sources said that a section of top functionaries in the Congress was in favour of Mr Antony taking the number two slot as he was “non-controversial and low-profile”.

Though in the website of government of India, the agriculture minister, Mr Sharad Pawar, continued to be shown as number two, the official websites of both the Prime Minister’s Office and Cabinet Secretariat have removed the list of Cabinet ministers.

Repeated calls to the PMO to find out the reason for removing the list of Cabinet ministers from the PM’s team evoked vague replies. Even if Mr Antony is being talked of as number two, the government continued to be in a dilemma over nominating its Leader of the Lok Sabha. With Mr Antony being a member of the Rajya Sabha, the race for Leader of the House is on between Mr Chidambaram, Mr Sushilkumar Shinde and Mr Kamal Nath.

Sources said along with Mr Chidambaram, Mr Kamal Nath also continued to be in the race for taking over as finance minister.

However, some feel that the Prime Minister could finally retain the finance portfolio.

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