Indian Episcopate Pleased With Singh as Prime Minister

Economist’s Competence and Preparation Praised

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NEW DELHI, India, MAY 21, 2004 ( An official with the Catholic bishops’ conference in India expressed satisfaction over the nomination of Manmohan Singh as prime minister of the world’s largest democracy.

«With Manmohan Singh serving as prime minister we will have a great intellectual heading our government for the first time,» Bishop Percival Fernandez, secretary-general of the episcopal conference, told AsiaNews.

«He most likely excels all other prime ministers worldwide in terms of his overall preparation and competence,» the bishop said.

The Congress Party headed by Sonia Gandhi, and the leftist parties close to it, now control the Indian Legislature, following the national elections that handed a defeat to the nationalist Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party.

Bishop Fernandez said he much appreciated Gandhi’s gesture of turning down the opportunity to head the new Indian government, calling it a «an act of humility,» just like other Catholic leaders had done in the past.

«Once again, Sonia Gandhi has shown her political opponents that she’s not interested in power, but in the country and its inhabitants progressing,» he said.

Singh, an Oxford-educated economist, was nominated as prime minister by 145 Congress party representatives. He now has the task of forming the new government.

Singh, who had a Sikh religious upbringing, had to overcome the distrust his name raised among Congress Party backers who were disappointed by Gandhi’s decision not to take the top spot.

Gandhi’s decision to drop out of the political spotlight has been viewed by many as a choice consistent with the Indian population’s belief system: Turning down something valuable is regarded as a high moral value in Indian culture, a virtue practiced by major historical figures such as Rama, Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi.

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