Party backs veteran reformer to lead India

India’s victorious Congress party named a 71-year-old economic reformer and political veteran today as their candidate to become India’s next prime minister after Sonia Gandhi shocked the nation by abandoning her claim to the top job.

India’s victorious Congress party named a 71-year-old economic reformer and political veteran today as their candidate to become India’s next prime minister after Sonia Gandhi shocked the nation by abandoning her claim to the top job.

Jairam Ramesh, a senior Congress official, told The Associated Press that Manmohan Singh was their new candidate. The party, which topped the polls in India’s three-week general elections, must now take his candidacy to their allies for their support.

Stock markets that plunged earlier this week on fears of an unstable coalition under Gandhi opened higher today on news that former finance minister Singh was set to head the new Congress-led government.

Once the allies have expressed their support for Singh – who would be the country’s first Sikh prime minister – Singh must meet the president to stake his claim to form the next government.

Italian-born Gandhi bowed out yesterday in a decision that stunned her supporters, but thrilled Hindu nationalists who were outraged over the prospects of a foreign-born leader.

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