Pranab Mukherjee resigns as Finance Minister; PM to take additional charge, say sources

New Delhi: Pranab Mukherjee met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at his 7 Race Course Road residence and resigned as India’s Finance Minister today. (Read: Dr Singh accepts Pranab’s resignation) Dr Singh is expected to take additional charge of the crucial Finance Ministry, sources have said. An announcement is expected soon.

Mr Mukherjee, the ruling UPA’s candidate for next month’s Presidential elections, made a poignant farewell statement at his North Block office before meeting the PM.

The PM keeping the Finance portfolio at a time when the Indian economy is going through one of its most fragile moments is expected to send out a strong signal of confidence to the global community that it is in safe hands. Dr Singh is widely recognised as the father of India’s economic reforms which he announced in 1991.

There has been a clamour from many quarters for a change in the Finance Ministry, with Mr Mukherjee having faced flak for several decisions where politics seemed to overwhelm economic imperatives. The government has to shake off the policy paralysis tag, urgently stem the slide of the Rupee, get the fundamentals of the economy to look up and get back investor confidence. A despondent India Inc has sent repeated SOS’ for some tough decisions.

Mr Mukherjee woke up this afternoon from his customary nap and headed to his North Block office, where he read out his statement, saying he was humbled by his nomination for President and thanking all those who supported his candidacy. The Finance Minister, known to be brusque often and even scold those around him, has seemed in good humour ever since his nomination was confirmed. With a touch of nostalgia, he joked today with reporters about them often blocking his car as they clamoured for information.

Earlier in the day, he had advised the reporters not “torture yourself” under a hot Delhi sun in wait of a word from him. He promised that he would speak to the media before he set out to resign.

Mr Mukherjee has in his words, “embarked on a new journey” – the 76-year-old Congress veteran will file nomination papers to run for President on Thursday, June 28. Mr Mukherjee will also resign from primary membership of the Congress Party. His party has already bid him a nostalgic farewell at a Congress working Committee meeting yesterday. With about 54 per cent of the electoral college that elects the President already having pledged support to his candidacy, Mr Mukherjee seems the most likely next resident of Rashtrapati Bhavan.

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