India’s new Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had a cabinet in place today after days of wrangling within his multi-party coalition, with a Harvard-educated veteran appointed as finance minister.
Singh, a top economist who charted a pro-market turn in India’s socialist-style economy as finance minister from 1991 to 1996, did not take on the finance minister’s post himself as some observers speculated he would.
Instead, he appointed Palaniappan Chidambaram, who has held the position once before under a previous government.
The cabinet list was released by the office of President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam late last night, more than a day after Singh was sworn in. The late-night announcement was an indication of the tightrope the new prime minister was walking to placate allies in his multiparty alliance.
The second challenge came when suspected Islamic militants blew up a paramilitary bus in insurgency-wracked Jammu-Kashmir state, killing at least 33 people and wounding 10 others.
Singh called the attack “a cowardly act” that highlighted the “grave threat to our nation’s integrity and progress”.
In a statement after his first cabinet meeting, Singh vowed there would be “no compromise on our solemn resolve to deal with the menace of terrorism with firm determination”.
Singh has 28 cabinet members and 40 ministers of state and junior ministers, including seven women and Bollywood star Sunil Dutt. Singh – India’s first prime minister from the Sikh minority – says the group reflects India’s “diversity and richness”.