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Who'll be finance minister if Pranab becomes President?


With speculation about finance minister Pranab Mukherjee moving to the Rashtrapati Bhawan getting intense, there are whispers in the Capital on Mukherjee's successor in North Block, though nothing has been decided yet.


The names being talked about include rural development minister Jairam Ramesh - a former World Banker and an IITian - a loyalist of party president Sonia Gandhi.


But as the next budget will probably set the tone for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh - a North Block veteran - may decide to keep the portfolio to himself.


One option could be the return of another North Block veteran, home minister P Chidambaram, to steer the economy.


But sources also indicate that as the task involves tackling the most serious problem since reforms began in 1991 - high inflation, a global crisis and a weaker rupee - the focus of the headhunters may shift towards technocrats, who will be able to take tough decisions.


There is a strong buzz that Singh may choose to hand the ministry over to a seasoned economist - planning commission deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia or chairman of the PM's economic advisory council C Rangarajan.


Sources indicated that Mukherjee's role could also be divided, with power minister Sushil Kumar Shinde becoming leader of the Lok Sabha.


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