Date: 17 Feb 2007

Shashi Tharoor as foreign minister? 

New Delhi: Former United Nations undersecretary general Shashi Tharoor, who ran unsuccessfully for the top post of the world body, may be inducted into Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's council of ministers, highly placed sources said.

The sources said Tharoor, who is believed to be close to Manmohan Singh, may be appointed minister of state for external affairs.

"The prime minister is keen to make use of his diplomatic skills, vast experience and numerous contacts. He may induct him as a minister of state in external affairs," one source, familiar with high-level government changes, said.

Tharoor, who quit his UN post earlier this month, is believed to have met the prime minister ahead of his resignation.

The sources added that the 51-year-old Tharoor is likely to replace Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma, who may be shifted to another ministry.

Tharoor, an award-winning author and eloquent speaker, had a 28-year-long stint in various capacities in the UN where he joined as the staff of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva in 1978.

It was believed that it was his proximity with Manmohan Singh that led to his being nominated as India's official candidate for the UN secretary general post.

But sources also aver that any such ministerial appointment would have to be cleared at the 'highest level' of the Congress party, meaning it should have the approval of Sonia Gandhi. Gandhi's views on Tharoor are not known.

Tharoor had said earlier that if he lost the race for the UN secretary general, he may look for a job in India. 

Tharoor, if he is made a minister, will have to get elected to the Rajya Sabha or Lok Sabha within six months.  

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