After Pranab, is Antony the number 2 in UPA govt?
New Delhi: Has Defence Minister A.K. Antony been informally accorded the number two position in the cabinet to replace Pranab Mukherjee who is contesting the presidential election? An indication about Antony's elevation came Thursday as he was seated next to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the cabinet meeting.
Official sources said Antony was on the seat earlier occupied by Mukherjee, who was the de facto number two in the union council of ministers.
"Antony was seated next to the Prime Minister," a senior official said.
The official, however, added that there had been no formal announcement of number two position.
There was speculation last week that Agriculture Minister and Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar had been given the number two position as his name was appeared after that of the Manmohan Singh on the official website of the Prime Minister's Office.
PMO sources, however, had downplayed the display. Curiously, the PMO website, at present, does not have list of cabinet ministers.
Mukherjee was also the leader of house in the Lok Sabha and Congress president Sonia Gandhi has to decide to on a suitable replacement.
He had resigned as the finance minister June 26 to contest the presidential poll.
There is also speculation about a cabinet reshuffle in the coming few weeks.