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India's key new ministers

India's new cabinet has 79 members and includes Congress party veterans, rising stars and some important coalition allies. BBC News profiles key ministers.

MANMOHAN SINGH, prime minister

The Indian prime minister, often derided by the main opposition BJP as weak, stunned his critics when he led the Congress party to a decisive victory in the elections.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh waits to take the oath of office at a swearing in ceremony at The Presidential Palace in New Delhi on May 22, 2009.
Mr Singh has a strengthened mandate

Widely regarded as the architect of the country's economic reforms, he is seen by many as the best man to lead India in times of global economic recession. A studious former academic and bureaucrat, Mr Singh keeps a low profile and is viewed as perhaps the cleanest politician in India.

Mr Singh became India's first Sikh prime minister after Congress leader Sonia Gandhi turned the post down in 2004. A major foreign policy triumph during his first term was to bring India out of nuclear isolation by signing a landmark deal with the US.

Mr Singh has never won a popular election - he has always been a member of the upper house - but many Indians respect him for his integrity and intelligence.

PRANAB MUKHERJEE, finance minister

Former foreign - and now finance - minister, Pranab Mukherjee is the Congress party's man for all seasons. He is an accomplished politician whose popularity cuts across party lines. And that makes him invaluable when it comes to negotiating with tricky and temperamental political allies.

Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee listens to a question during a press conference in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Mr Mukherjee's popularity cuts across party lines

In the twilight months of the last government, he also held the finance portfolio.

Although he has been an MP in the upper house of parliament for the past four decades, he won a seat in the lower house for the first time in 2004.

Besides the foreign ministry, Mr Mukherjee has also served as finance minister, defence minister and industry minister at various times in the past.

The diminutive politician enjoys great stature - his loyalty and competence have endeared him to Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh.

PALANIAPPAN CHIDAMBARAM, home minister

The suave, articulate politician from southern Tamil Nadu state has had successful stints at the finance ministry and home ministry, where he remains.

P Chidambaram
Mr Chidambaram is known for his efficiency

The Harvard-educated lawyer spent the first four years of the last government as finance minister, overseeing a period of rapid economic growth.

Mr Chidambaram is a firm believer in free trade and is known for his daring scheme to halt tax evasion. He is well known for his pro-market reforms and for his bold steps to abolish red tape.

His reputation for efficiency resulted in him being appointed the home minister after the deadly Mumbai (Bombay) attacks in November 2008.

His critics accuse him of being arrogant and say he lacks the ability to reach out to party cadres, perhaps a reason why he came close to losing the recent election. In the end, he won with a small margin of about 3,500 votes.

SM KRISHNA, foreign minister

Mr Krishna is a member of the Rajya upper house from the southern state of Karnataka.

India's newly appointed foreign minister, S. M. Krishna, gives a press conference in New Delhi on May 23, 2009.
SM Krishna aims to boost ties with neighbours

An old Congress party hand, he has served as junior minister for industry and finance in the past. He has also been the chief minister of Karnataka and served as the governor of Maharashtra.

A Fulbright scholar, Mr Krishna is credited with the growth of the IT industry in Bangalore. He is also an avid sportsperson who plays tennis regularly.

In his first press conference after taking over as external affairs minister, Mr Krishna said the new government's priority was to improve ties with its neighbours and consolidate strategic partnerships with the US, Russia, China, Japan and the European Union.

AK ANTONY, defence minister

Senior Congress party leader AK Antony was Mr Singh's defence minister in the last government too. Before that he was a three-time chief minister of the southern state of Kerala.

Indian Defence Minister and Senior Congress leader A.K. Antony (R) takes an oath of office at a swearing in ceremony in The Presidential Palace in New Delhi on May 22, 2009
Mr Antony is popular with the army

The 68-year-old is known for his clean image. According to reports, he would cancel defence contracts at the whiff of controversy. Analysts say during his tenure, violence in Kashmir reduced considerably and his policies have made him popular with the army.

As defence minister, he toured most forward areas including the Siachen glacier - often described as the highest battlefield in the world - and came up with measures to improve the living conditions of soldiers.

But critics say he delayed the purchase of equipment for the armed forces, affecting their battlefield capability.

SHARAD PAWAR, agriculture minister

Sharad Pawar leads the Nationalist Congress Party. He is one of the few politicians with support from parties across regions and ideologies. He was brought into the Congress party by former PM Rajiv Gandhi. And in 1991, he became defence minister under Narasimha Rao.

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar at a meeting of Congress led alliance parties, in New Delhi, India, , Wednesday, May 20, 2009.
Sharad Pawar - seen by many as ruthless and ambitious

In 1999, he split from Congress over Sonia Gandhi's Italian roots. But five years later he was back with his old ally, entering the governing United Progressive Alliance (UPA) on the eve of the 2004 polls.

Not trusted by many in India's political class, Mr Pawar is known to be ruthless and ambitious. As political parties negotiated ahead of the recent elections, Mr Pawar's supporters floated his name as a prime ministerial candidate. But with Congress getting a decisive mandate in the elections, Mr Pawar will have to content himself with a ministry for the moment.

MAMATA BANERJEE, railways minister

Will Mamata Banerjee give sleepless nights to Manmohan Singh? That's a question many in India are asking as the mercurial chief of the regional Trinamul Congress Party drives a hard bargain for ministerial posts for her 19 MPs.

Mamata Banerjee
Ms Banerjee has a reputation for being temperamental

Ms Banerjee's success is an indication of the waning popularity of the communists in the state of West Bengal. Exactly three years ago, her party seemed to be a spent political force and she was considered something of a "political oddball".

But in the past couple of years, she has steadily made inroads into the leftists' territory. She has led successful campaigns against the state government's initiative to acquire vast tracts of agricultural land in Singur and Nandigram in south Bengal for the car and chemicals industries respectively. Both projects were withdrawn in the face of resistance.

Taking up the issues of small farmers, Ms Banerjee became a cheerleader for Bengal's rural poor. However, her relationship with the Congress is expected to be stormy. Soon after the elections, she said she wanted early assembly elections in West Bengal, a demand Congress may not be able, or willing, to grant.



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