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In an extraordinary development that has only now come to light, it has been discovered that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was dropped from the Union Council of Ministers during the cabinet reshuffle on Sunday, October 28 as a result of a clerical error – his name was missing from the list forwarded to the Rahstrapati Bhavan – and ceased to be Prime Minister for over 24 hours until the error was detected and rectified.
The veracity of this embarrassing event was confirmed by a reliable source in the Rashtrapati Bhawan Secretariat late on Tuesday. “It is standard practice for the government of the day – which usually means the Prime Minister’s Office – to send a complete list of members of the Union Cabinet to the President of India after every cabinet reshuffle. Whether as a result of a clerical error or for some other reason, the list of Union Ministers received by us on Sunday did not have Manmohanji’s name,” she disclosed on condition of strict anonymity.
Dr. Singh naturally assumed that he had also been shuffled out when he failed to spot his name in the list and quietly slipped away from the Rashtrapati Bhavan to lead a retired life of tranquillity and scholarly pursuits.
A senior PMO official reveals a possible reason for why Singh’s name was absent in the final list of Cabinet members sent to Rashtrapati Bhawan on Sunday morning. According to her, the Cabinet list was prepared and sent to the President, not by the PMO but instead by the secretariat of UPA Chairperson and Congress President Sonia Gandhi and the error may have originated there.
“In keeping with his soft-spoken and self-effacing nature, Dr. Singh reclused himself after that,” the PMO source added. “So much so that he did not even attend the first meeting of the newly constituted Cabinet held on Monday evening at Race Course Road. This is so typical of his integrity…he felt he should not attend because officially he was no longer PM!”
But why was his absence not even noticed the next day during the cabinet meeting which he was supposed to chair? “Oh, he wasn’t there, was it? Funny now that you mention it, I don’t recall seeing him either,” shrugged newly inducted External Affairs Minister, Shri Salman Khurshid when queried.
Fortunately, the error was noticed on Tuesday morning by Smt. Sonia Gandhi’s personal secretary and a corrected list immediately forwarded to the President so that Dr. Singh could resume his duties once more and India could get back to having a Prime Minister once again.