PM gets standing ovation on last working day in South Block office

PM gets standing ovation on last working day in South Block office

35New Delhi, May 13 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was given a standing ovation by his staff during a farewell hosted for him Tuesday, his last working day at his South Block office, when the cabinet also met and cleared the elevation of the Indian Army vice chief, Lt. Gen. Dalbir Singh Suhag, as the new head of the force.

Manmohan Singh will submit his resignation and that of the cabinet to President Pranab Mukherjee May 17, a day after the Lok Sabha election results are declared.

Around 110 staffers of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) gathered at South Block to give a farewell to Manmohan Singh, who steps down after a decade at the helm of the country leading the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.

“The staff gave the prime minister a standing ovation,” a PMO official told IANS.

The prime minister, who did not betray much emotion, also thanked his staff for their work. Many officials presented him bouquets.

Manmohan Singh told the PMO staff: “I am very thankful to you all for your service to the nation. May god bless you.”

The official said that it was Manmohan Singh’s last working day in his South Block office.

Some of the staff who have interacted with the prime minister during the last 10 years were seen wiping away their tears, the official added.

Present along with Manmohan Singh were National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon, Principal Secretary Pulok Chatterjee, Prime Minister’s Advisor T.K.A. Nair and his Media Advisor, Pankaj Pachauri.The farewell was hosted in the spacious corridor of the PMO.

The union cabinet, headed by the prime minister, also met Tuesday, possibly the last time for executing government business.

Sources said the cabinet cleared the name of Lt. Gen. Suhag as the next army chief.

The defence ministry had Monday recommended his name. The government move came after the Election Commission gave the government the go-ahead for appointing the new army chief.

The BJP had opposed appointment of the new army chief at the “fag end” of the government’s tenure.

On Tuesday, the Congress again hailed Manmohan Singh’s “experienced and seasoned stewardship”.

“India is proud to have earned so many laurels and respect during the last ten years,” Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi is slated to host a dinner in honour of the prime minister Wednesday, party sources said.

Manmohan Singh will deliver a farewell address to the nation May 17 after he submits his resignation and that of his government to the president.

Before that, the prime minister will attend his last cabinet meeting at which the members of council of ministers will thank him for his leadership.

“He is likely to address the nation May 17 afternoon,” a PMO official told IANS.

Manmohan Singh will continue as the caretaker prime minister till his successor takes the oath of office.

The official said that prime minister will move out of his present 7, Race Course Road residence and go to his new residence at 3, Moti Lal Nehru Marg, after the new prime minister is sworn in.

Manmohan Singh had earlier this year announced his retirement after a decade at the helm of two successive United Progressive Alliance (UPA) governments. On Jan 3 this year, Manmohan Singh addressed his final press conference, and only his third in ten years. He announced his retirement at the press conference.

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