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Antony to officiate at Republic Day function

Special Correspondent

What is being done is as per convention: Moily

Congress happy over successful surgery for Prime Minister

NEW DELHI: As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recuperates from his surgery, the government on Saturday announced that Defence Minister A.K. Antony would perform the duties of the Prime Minister during the Republic Day and functions associated with the occasion.

On January 26, Mr. Antony will receive President Pratibha Patil and Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev, the Chief Guest at the parade on Rajpath. The Minister would begin the day’s function by laying a wreath at the India Gate Memorial, before the parade begins, Defence Ministry spokesman Sitanshu Kar said.

Mr. Antony will host the tea party for the cadres and tableau artists who take part in the parade. Since the Defence Ministry is responsible for the conduct of events associated with Republic Day, Mr. Kar said it was normal for the Minster-in-charge to perform the role in the absence of the Prime Minister.

The Congress expressed happiness over the successful completion of the surgery and rejected questions about possible change in the government as “most irrelevant.”

Congress spokesperson Veerappa Moily said, “Our Prime Minister has strong willpower and he will soon come back to work, rejuvenated.”

Asked why senior Minister Pranab Mukherjee was not made the officiating Prime Minister, Mr. Moily said what had been done was as per convention.

“Whenever the Prime Minister is away, the seniormost Minister is assigned certain functions [usually done by the Prime Minister]. There is nothing abnormal in what is being done,” he added.

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