<p>As finance ministry officials remained glued to news flashes on the LCD screens in their rooms, others were constantly monitoring news on the web. The support staff got its share of the news feed by keeping a close watch on politicians visiting North Block. Till yesterday, everyone, from a peon to a secretary-level officer, had just one thought in their minds — prospects of their boss moving to Rashtrapati Bhavan.
As the United Progressive Alliance today announced Pranab Mukherjee as its presidential candidate, discussions drifted to speculation on who would replace Pranab Mukherjee as finance minister. Various names were discussed — those of seasoned, as well as naïve politicians. Names of economists also did the rounds. However, if one goes by what people at various levels in the ministry think, no one seems to fit the bill.
While the elections for the post of President are yet to take place, debates have already started on which officials would accompany Mukherjee to Rashtrapati Bhavan and which would have to take up ordinary postings. Different permutations and combinations are being tried to figure who would gain and who would lose if a particular minister arrives at North Block.
“Though the finance minister is going from here, everyone is happy for him. He has done his best in the finance ministry,” said an official who aspires to follow Mukherjee to Rashtrapati Bhavan.
While many in the ministry appear to be ardent fans of Mukherjee’s communication skills, understanding of issues and down-to-earth attitude, there are some who believe a change at the ministry’s helm would augur well for both the ministry and the economy.
Today, the pace of work in the ministry slackened, with everyone taking keen interest in the political developments. However, there was a noticeable rush to get important files cleared by the finance minister before he left for the Prime Minister’s residence in the afternoon.
When Mukherjee saw journalists waiting for him outside his North Block office, he said: “Don’t stand in the heat. Go and wait for the announcement.” Later in the day, he addressed the media twice to ensure everyone had an opportunity to meet him.
Many senior Congress leaders came to congratulate Mukherjee after his name was announced by UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi. Mukherjee seemed in a cheerful mood, and the sweets being distributed to everyone in North Block only added to the celebrations.