NEW DELHI: Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee was to formally resign Tuesday, leaving behind a faltering economy and a plunging rupee as he sets his sights on the country’s presidency.
The 77-year-old veteran politician leaves office at a time of growing criticism of his stewardship of Asia’s third-largest economy, which has slowed dramatically at a time of stubbornly high inflation.
His last full day as finance minister coincided with the announcement Monday of measures to boost the rupee, which has lost nearly a quarter of its value in the past year and hit a record low of 57.32 against the dollar last week.
The steps included raising the limit on foreign investment in government bonds by $5 billion to $20 billion, but the markets were underwhelmed and both the Indian currency and Mumbai’s Sensex index fell on the announcement.
Mukherjee was scheduled to submit his formal resignation to President Pratibha Patil at 4:30 pm (1100 GMT).
A political troubleshooter whose popularity cuts across party lines, Mukherjee was selected last month as the ruling coalition’s nominee to succeed Patil.
Although the president is India’s titular head of state, real executive power resides with the prime minister and the cabinet.
Indian presidents are selected by an electoral college comprising MPs from both houses of parliament and state legislatures.
The election will be held on July 19.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has yet to announce who will take over the finance ministry, and there has been widespread speculation that he might keep the portfolio for himself.
India’s once-booming economy is suffering from slowing industrial growth, troublesome fiscal and current account deficits and a stalled reform agenda.
The economy grew just 5.3 percent in January to March, its slowest quarterly expansion in nine years.