Saturday, May 23, 2009

Indian foreign minister takes finance portfolio

NEW DELHI (AP)23/05/2009

The newly elected Indian government announced key Cabinet positions Saturday, including former Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee as finance minister.

A government statement said the foreign affairs portfolio went to S.M. Krishna, a longtime member of the ruling Congress Party and former chief minister of the southern state of Karnataka. A.K. Antony will continue as defense minister.

A Congress-led coalition won national elections that ended May 16, capturing more seats than most analysts predicted. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was sworn in for a second term on Friday.

Some 19 senior ministers were also sworn in Friday with several more expected to take the oath of office next week. Allocation of the first six portfolios came Saturday.

Other appointments included Sharad Pawar as agriculture minister and Mamata Banerjee as railways minister. Both are leaders of junior parties in the coalition. Palaniappan Chidambaram is staying on as home minister, a position he took up following terror attacks last year in Mumbai that killed 166. Before that he served as finance minister.

Mukherjee is a senior Congress leader who has held several key Cabinet positions in the past including defense. He takes up the finance portfolio as India confronts the growing impact of the global financial crisis.

Indian industry cheered the new appointments, especially that of Mukherjee. «We are delighted at the announcement of Mr. Pranab Mukherjee as the new finance minister. Mr. Mukherjee who has held the finance portfolio in the past combines in himself a rare sense of economic and political judgment that will stand the test of time,» said Harsh Pati Singhania, president of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.