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Indian Prime Minister in Hospital for Heart Surgery


Indian government officials say prime minister Manmohan Singh was taken to a New Delhi hospital and is due to undergo coronary artery bypass graft surgery Saturday to clear blockages in his heart. Earlier in the week, the prime minister canceled a trip to Kolkatta and underwent a series of tests that reportedly indicated multiple arterial blockages. The Prime Minister had complained of suffering chest pains.

External affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee is expected to take over the day-to-day operation of the government if Mr. Singh is incapacitated. He told reporters in New Delhi that it is premature to talk about him as acting prime minister.

"These are all theoretical propositions," he said. "We don't know how long it will take, what would happen. But this is normal, government is there."

Medical experts say the 76-year-old prime minister appears to be in relatively good shape for a man his age. But it will likely be a number of weeks before he could fully resume his duties.

The prime minister had a similar procedure in Britain in 1990 and has undergone several minor unrelated surgeries during his five years in office.

The prime minister's health is raising political concerns. His Congress Party leads the coalition that governs the world's largest democracy and elections are expected to be held within five months.

Mr. Singh, who has a reputation as a brilliant technocrat rather than a savvy politician, has been the trusted choice of Congress Party matriarch Sonia Gandhi.

Political analysts say there are no other alternatives in the senior generation to assume power. That means Mrs. Gandhi, the Congress Party president, may be compelled to push forward her 38-year-old son, Rahul. The junior politician still being groomed to wear the mantle of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty would represent the fourth consecutive generation of his family to be a prime minister of India.

Questions about Mr. Singh's health will likely see trial balloons floated for lesser-known alternative candidates in the Congress Party and by its coalition partners.

The largest opposition party, the BJP, also is hoping for another chance to lead the country. The Hindu nationalistic center-right party was last in power from 1998 to 2004.

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