After ducking the issue of seniority in the cabinet since July following the exit of Pranab Mukhejee, prime minister Manmohan Singh has now officially accorded No. 2 position to defence minister AK Antony.
The seniority row had generated such a heat that agriculture minister Sharad Pawar had refused to attend cabinet meetings. Subsequently, the PMO removed the whole list of cabinet ministers from its website.
Since the UPA government came to power in 2004, Pranab Mukherjee was the No. 2 in the government. He used to sit on the right side of the prime minister during cabinet meetings. After he stepped down to become the President, Pawar occupied his vacant seat in the cabinet meeting. But to his heartburn, at the next cabinet meeting, he saw Antony’s nameplate on the immediate right of the PM.
The new list published on Monday as ‘PM’s Team’ has put Antony on the top, ignoring pleas from the NCP to give Pawar the No. 2 position. He is now No. 3, followed by finance minister P Chidambaram and health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.
Sources in the PMO insisted that the list does not show the seniority as all union ministers are equal. But they are equally silent on disclosing the criteria used for placement of names of the ministers in the present order.