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Manmohan Singh Slated to be India's Next Prime Minister - 2004-05-19


India's Congress Party has formally proposed veteran economic reformer and former Finance Minister Manmohan Singh as its choice for prime minister.

Mr. Singh is scheduled to meet President Abdul Kalam tonight (Wednesday night) to seek permission to form the government.

The move came as the leader of the party -former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's widow Sonia Gandhi -refused fresh appeals to reconsider her decision not to seek the post of prime minister. However, she issued a statement saying she will remain president of the Congress party.

Members of the Congress Working Committee -the party's top policy-making body -met with Mrs. Gandhi today (Wednesday). Afterwards, they said that she had again declined their request to change her mind.

Indian stock markets rose for a second straight day (Wednesday) as it became apparent that Mr. Singh is likely to lead the world's largest democracy.

Mrs. Gandhi announced Tuesday that she will not seek the prime minister's post, saying she followed her conscience in reaching the decision. Her allies say she declined the job to protect the new administration from criticism by Hindu nationalists over her foreign origin.

The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which was stunned by its election defeat, vowed to boycott Mrs. Gandhi's swearing-in ceremony if she became prime minister.

There is no specific provision in the Indian constitution about a prime minister's country of origin. The 57-year-old widowof slain Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi became an Indian citizen 21 years ago.

Information for this story is provided by AP, AFP, Reuters

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