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Former Finance Minister Manmohan Singh Widely Expected to Become India's Next  PM - 2004-05-19


Former finance minister, Manmohan Singh, is slated to be India's possible next prime minister. Mr. Singh is a former academic, civil servant, and champion of economic reforms.

The 71-year-old soft-spoken economist entered India's political scene in 1991 when the country's foreign exchange reserves had dipped dangerously low - and India was on the verge of defaulting on foreign loans.

Within days of stepping in as the country's new finance minister, Manmohan Singh radically changed India's economic course, scrapping the decades-old socialist policies of previous Congress Party governments.

He argued successfully that India had the potential to rival China and East Asia, if stifling controls were removed and the closed economy opened to foreign investors.

Mr. Singh made a significant mark in just five years, before the Congress Party lost power in elections in 1996.

Since then, the modest, low-profile economist remained a senior figure in the party but is said to shy away from power politics. He is one of the most trusted supporters of Congress Party leader Sonia Gandhi, who has declined the post of prime minister, despite leading her party to an unexpected parliamentary election victory.

Mr. Singh's current vision for India is what has been described as globalization with a "human face." He says he wants growth policies and trade, which take into account the plight of the poor in society.

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