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India’s Congress asked to form new govt

INDIA: India’s Congress party, which surged back to power following month-long elections, was Wednesday invited to form the next government.

Congress, which campaigned on a pro-poor platform, was asked to form the government after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and party chairwoman Sonia Gandhi met President Pratibha Patil at the British colonial-era presidential palace.

“The president has invited me to form the new government,” Singh said after their meeting, adding that his new administration would be sworn in Friday.

Gandhi’s Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) grabbed 262 seats in 543-seat parliament and with the support of allies, the coalition’s tally is well past the half-way mark needed to form a government.

With support extended by three other regional parties, the UPA’s legislative strength stood at 322, Singh told reporters.

The 76-year-old Singh earlier this week was nominated to hold the premier’s post for a second five-year term. Earlier in the day, the Congress party and its allies haggled over cabinet positions with Singh in a position to dictate terms after his party’s electoral triumph.

Leaders of the coalition’s members made their pitches for cabinet berths at a meeting at Gandhi’s residence.

Congress, which won 206 of the 543 seats in parliament — its strongest showing since 1991 — will retain the portfolios for finance, defence, foreign affairs and internal security, a senior party figure told AFP.

New Delhi, Thursday, AFP

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