Manmohan Singh, the architect of India’s economic reforms and a respected political consensus builder, was named prime minister of India today, ending weeks of political turmoil that culminated with Sonia Gandhi’s refusal to take the post.
Singh and Congress party leader Gandhi met with President APJ Abdul Kalam at his New Delhi palace, where he approved their bid to form a minority government, with Singh at the helm.
Gandhi stunned the nation on Tuesday by declining the job after leading her party to a surprising general election victory.
The meeting with the president took place after Gandhi ignored pleas from senior Congress officials and protests from thousands of disappointed supporters to change her mind and take the job herself.
“I am happy to inform the nation the president has invited me to form the next government,” Singh said after emerging from the ornate, colonial-era palace.
Gandhi was by his side and they appeared at ease, laughing when reporters shouted questions at them.
A senior Congress leader said Singh, 71, would be sworn in on Thursday or Saturday.
Friday, he said, was an auspicious date on the Hindu calendar. It is also the 13th anniversary of the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, who was killed by Sri Lanka separatists, leaving Sonia Gandhi a widow.
Singh, the first Sikh to lead the government since its independence from Britain in 1947, is a veteran of Indian politics.
The Oxford-educated former finance minister during the last time Congress was in power, from 1991 to 1996, scripted the nation’s free-market reforms.
His admirers credit him with helping to save the country’s socialist-style economy from near collapse at the time.