New Delhi: Has Defence Minister AK Antony been informally accorded the number two position in the cabinet after the exit of Pranab Mukherjee who is contesting the presidential election?

Indication to this effect came as Antony was allocated the seat next to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at Thursday’s Cabinet meeting here.

Antony was allocated the seat to the right of the Prime Minister, where Mukherjee used to sit, sources said.

The seat next to the Prime Minister on the left side was occupied by Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth as usual, they said.

Earlier, Mukherjee, who resigned as the Finance Minister on June 26 to contest the Presidential poll, was the de facto number two in the government. He would stay in Delhi whenever the Prime Minister had to go abroad on official visits.

There was speculation last week that NCP leader and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar had been given the number two position as his name was listed after that of the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the official website of the PMO.

PMO sources had downplayed this, saying it was merely an exercise of those managing the website as Pawar's name came up after removal of the name of Mukherjee.

However, significantly, since the evening of July 5, the entire list of Cabinet ministers has been missing from the website which only carries the lists of Ministers of State (Independent Charge) and Ministers of State.

After the exit of Mukherjee, Congress is also in the process of deciding the Leader of the Lok Sabha, a position held by the former Finance Minister.


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