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2004: India's new Cabinet

This page is devoted to information about key portofolios of the United Progressive Alliance's Congress-led government. Below you will find our views on the choices and information about the new cabinet members along with information about the ministries they will lead.

All portfolios are important. We will add them to the list as we go along and collect more data. I hope you find this page useful to get started.

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Prime Minister - Manmohan Singh
One of the most accomplished Indians in public life Dr.Manmohan Singh, 71,is an economist by training. He earned his PhD from Oxford. He has virtually held all important positions in the Indian financial sector. From being the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India to the Finance Minister who unleashed the era of economic liberalization in 1991.

His credentials as an administrator and policy-maker are respected across the political spectrum. But his political skills have been called into question. The only time he contested for the Lower House, the Lok Sabha, he lost. He is now a member of the Upper House, the Rajya Sabha. We at Young India believe that with Mrs.Sonia Gandhi's not being directly involved with day to day governance she will be able to help Dr.Singh deal with any political challenges that may arise. We do not foresee Dr.Singh being too distracted from the primary task of governing India.

It must be noted that Dr.Singh is the first non-Hindu Prime Minister of India. On a personal note we can attest to the fact that Dr.Singh is a thorough gentleman. A very soft-spoken and focussed individual.

You can find more analysis at our blog.

External Affairs/Foreign Minister - K Natwar Singh

Mr.Natwar Singh, 73, has held key diplomatic positions throughout his career. Most prominent amongst them was being the Ambassador to Pakistan. He also served in late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's cabinet as well.

For the last 5 years Mr.Singh has been the foreign policy voice of the Congress Party. He is a great admirer of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr.Martin Luther King, Jr. He is an independent thinker who studied History at Cambridge. Mr.Singh is a writer of great repute having penned many books and numerous articles.

He has an internationalist outlook and will lay special emphasis on strengthening relations with Pakistan in particular. He was the force behind the Indian parliament passing a resolution condemning the US occupation of Iraq. The resolution demanded immediate UN intervention. After his taking over the External Affairs Ministry he has made good relations with the United States one of the top-most priorities of India's foreign policy. Expect the relations to grow even closer on a principled basis.

Finance Minister - Palaniappan Chidambaram

Mr.Chidambaram, 58, is a Harvard-graduate and is one of the strongest proponents of pro-market reforms. He has been somewhat of a political wanderer but now seems to have returned to his political roots - the Congress Party. He was Finance Minister from 1996 to 1998 as part of the only non-Congress non-BJP government ever.

The Indian stock market and business sector have gleefully welcomed him. His induction is an interesting development. On the one hand it reassures the business sector on the other it is yet to be seen how he will modulate his enthusiasm for a more market-oriented approach to economic policy with the critical social goals the new government has articulated in its 'Common Minimum Programme'. Fiscal engineering to manage the growing budget deficit will be Mr.Chidambaram's greatest challenge.

Home Minister - Shivraj Patil

Mr.Patil, a veteran politician, now leads a ministry that just a decade ago was the second most prominent portfolio after the Prime Minister's. Mr.Patil's experience as an academic and speaker of the Lower House, the Lok Sabha, will come in handy as he will have to diplomatically deal with issues like Kashmir and the secessionist activities in the North-East. He will have to strike a balance between law enforcement and responding to the legitimate demands of societies that feel left out. Mr.Patil has held several cabinet positions in the past.

We must add that many experts have expressed their surprise at Mr.Patil's induction into the cabinet inspite of his loss in the recent elections. Many feel that some youthful members of the new government have been denied by old-timers such as Mr.Patil taking up positions.

Defense Minister - Pranab Mukherjee

Mr.Mukherjee, another veteran of the Congress Party, is the first Congress defense minister since the BJP-alliance ordered the 1998 nuclear tests in Pokhran. Overtly managing the nuclear realities and its consequent geo-political ramifications will be Mr.Mukherjee's greatest challenge.

Mr.Mukherjee's long political career saw its first electoral victory just this year. Even though he has held various cabinet and administrative positions in the past his lack of popular support is an issue. Despite this lack of popular support he has been able to maintain a very high-profile in the Congress party and thus has been rewarded with this crucial portfolio.




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