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.
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.
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.
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.