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India looks for new prime minister

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Some Indians were outraged at the idea of having a prime minister born outside the country.

The Italian-born woman who married into India's political spotlight.
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Sonia Gandhi

NEW DELHI, India (CNN) -- India is searching for a prime minister one day after Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi withdrew her name as candidate.

India's incoming leftist coalition is due to meet on Wednesday to talk about who will lead the world's largest democracy.

Analysts say the challenge of forming a government in India is likely to continue over the next few days.

The Italian-born Gandhi did not say who she would nominate for the top post, but the favorite appears to be former finance minister Manmohan Singh.

The architect of India's economic liberalization program during the last Congress-led government from 1991 to 1996, Singh would be the first Sikh to become prime minister. (Singh profile)

The nation was shocked by Gandhi's withdrawal, but markets welcomed early reports she was stepping out of contention for top post after her party's upset win last week over Hindu nationalists.(Indian stocks stage comeback)

Tuesday's rally followed what Indians have dubbed "Black Monday," when stocks plummeted 11 percent, in the Mumbai exchange's biggest pounding in its 129-year history.

Investors had thought a pro-labor, anti-privatization Communist-backed coalition could slow or halt reforms in Asia's third-largest economy.

'Inner voice'

In a speech to the Congress party on Tuesday night, the 57-year-old Gandhi told shouting supporters she was listening to "my inner voice, my conscience," when she decided not to bid for the job of prime minister.

"I must humbly decline this post," she told lawmakers, who reacted angrily to her decision. (Gandhi declines PM post)

Earlier Tuesday, Gandhi met with the country's president. She had been considered a near certainty to be sworn in as the predominantly Hindu nation's new prime minister.

But she left the presidential palace saying another day of talks was needed before her party could form a new government.

Congress sources said Gandhi -- a Roman Catholic born in Italy -- was tired of personal attacks over her faith and heritage and thought the party might be more successful with a different leader.

Some reports have suggested her children were fearful of the risk involved in taking such a high profile position.

Gandhi married into a family that dominated Indian politics since independence from Britain in 1947.

Her mother-in-law, Indira, ruled the country until her assassination in 1984. Her son, Sonia's husband Rajiv, was killed in a suicide bombing two years after losing power in 1989.

Meanwhile, supporters gathered outside Gandhi's home and tried to convince her to keep vying for the top spot.

One man stood on the roof of a car, held a home-made gun to his head and waved a stick to deter people trying to calm him.

"Call Sonia Gandhi! Tell her I will kill myself if she doesn't become prime minister!" Reuters reported him as saying before he was disarmed.

CNN's Ram Ramgopal, New Delhi Bureau Chief Satinder Bindra and producer Suhasini Haidar contributed to this report

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