When Montek Singh Ahluwalia meets Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday, it will be the regrouping of old North Block hands: Montek was Finance Secretary when the Doctor was Finance Minister. This time, Montek may have several options before him.
If there’s speculation in some quarters that Montek may be returning as economic advisor to the PM, there’s also buzz that he could be back in North Block as advisor to Finance Minister P Chidambaram in the rank of a Minister of State.
But MoS status is something he has held in the past, so Montek could well be in the running for the post of Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission. It’s the meeting with the Prime Minister this Saturday that should decide his future role.
Sixty one-year-old Montek, an MA, MPhil from Oxford, worked as Secretary, Economic Affairs under Manmohan Singh before becoming Finance Secretary. He has been Director, Independent Evaluation at the IMF since July, 2001. Montek was Member, Planning Commission — in the rank of an MoS — from 1998 to 2001.
Congress connections of the Ahluwalia family are well known. Montek’s son Pawan Ahluwalia worked as an intern in Digvijay Singh’s office when he was Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh in 2000 and then in Delhi Chief Minister Shiela Dikshit’s office in 2003. Pawan’s currently doing his Masters at the Kennedy School of Government in Harvard.
Montek’s wife Isher Judge Ahluwalia, a top economist in her own right with a PhD from MIT, is currently visiting professor at Maryland School of Public Affairs. She was Director and Chief Executive of Indian Council for Research in International Economic Relations (ICRIER) till she left India to join her husband in the US. She has also worked with Centre for Policy Research and National Institute of Public Finance and Policy.
When IANS spoke to Montek in Washington on Dr Singh’s appointment as Prime Minister, this is what he said: ‘‘Smt (Sonia) Gandhi’s personal decision to entrust the responsibility of leading the government to Manmohan Singh, despite commanding a majority in Parliament, is an act of extraordinary self-denial on her part, reflecting standards we have rarely seen in Indian public life.’’
‘‘As a result, the country has gained a Prime Minister who comes fortified by vast experience in government, and even more important, exemplifies the highest standards of honesty and integrity in public life, combined with simplicity in personal living.’’