External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee has been given the additional charge of the finance ministry till such time as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recovers from the heart bypass surgery he is to undergo on Saturday.
According to an official communiqué, President Pratibha Patil has directed Mukherjee to hold the additional charge from 24 January.
Mukherjee, who is also set to preside over cabinet meetings, is now expected to present the vote on account on 16 February, when parliament's nod will be sought to fund government expenditure, including payment of salaries, till the next national budget.
The finance portfolio is presently with the prime minister after P Chidambaram was shifted to the home ministry after the 26 November Mumbai terror attacks.
The finance portfolio, though, is not new to Mukherjee. He presided over the ministry as a cabinet minister from January 1982 to December 1984 under then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and briefly under Rajiv Gandhi. He has also held the position of Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission from 1991 to 1996.
A little known trivia is that during the period when Mukherjee was finance minister, Dr Singh was the governor of RBI, effectively reporting to Mukherjee.
The journalist-turned-politician, who has a Master's degree each in history and political science, apart from a Bachelor's degree in law, held additional charge of the commerce ministry from September to December 1984.
Besides being a stand in for the prime minister, Mukherjee has also been handed over the charge of faction-ridden Congress West Bengal.
The appointment of Mukherjee is "till the Lok Sabha elections" and he has been given the responsibility by party chief Sonia Gandhi "due to prolonged illness of Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi", a party press release said.