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Manmohan Singh Officially Appointed as Indian PM

Manmohan Singh was Wednesday night officially appointed Indian prime minister to head the coalition-led Congress after Sonia Gandhi rejected appeals to take up the top post.

The Press Trust of India reported that President A. P. J. Abdul Kalam appointed the 71-year-old Singh to succeed Atal Bihari Vajpayee after he along with Gandhi met him for about 15 minutes at Rashtrapati Bhawan, or the Presidential Palace, to bring to an end an extraordinary political drama triggered by Gandhi's decision not to become prime minister despite frenzied pleas by her party men across the country.

Singh was elected leader of CPP at a general body meeting held at the central hall of parliament, after Sonia Gandhi rejected appeals by Congress leaders to take back her decision not to accept Prime Ministership, the Press Trust of India (PTI) reported.

Gandhi will now remain chairperson of the CPP and 71-year-old soft-spoken Singh, ex-Finance Minister in the Narasimha Rao government (1991-96) will be deputy chairperson.

"Singh is likely to be sworn in as prime minister Thursday," the PTI quoted Congress spokesman Anand Sharma as saying.

Meanwhile, the Congress allies have told Gandhi that leadership of Congress was an internal party matter and they would support any leader chosen by the CPP.

Earlier, Singh had been expected to serve as Finance Minister under a coalition-led government, with Sonia Gandhi as Prime Minister.

But after Gandhi's dramatic decision to turn down the government job in what was seen as a bid to shield her party from attacks by the Bharatiya Janata Party and other parties over her foreign birth, Singh was her choice for the post.

(Xinhua News Agency May 20, 2004)


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