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Singh sworn in as India PM


start quoteShe's the queen, she is appointing a regent to run some of the government's business. But it is she who will be in charge.end quote
-- Mani Shankar Aiyer, senior Congress leader
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India
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Sonia Gandhi
New Delhi (India)

NEW DELHI, India (CNN) -- India's newly appointed prime minister, Manmohan Singh, was sworn in Saturday evening, marking the first time a non-Hindu has led the country.

The ceremony brought to an end one of the most turbulent times in Indian politics.

Singh, who is Sikh, took office at 5:30 p.m. Saturday (1200 GMT/8 a.m. ET) in a ceremony at the presidential estate in New Delhi.

He was sworn in by India's Muslim president, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

It is the first time in India's history that a minority is prime minister. India is a predominantly Hindu nation, with a 12 percent Muslim population and about 2 percent Sikh.

Singh, a notable economist, was designated prime minister after Sonia Gandhi -- who led the Congress Party in recent elections -- said she did not want the job. That decision created political chaos.

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in front of her house earlier this week, chanting for her to take up the country's top political post.

Congress Party leaders failed Wednesday to persuade Gandhi to reconsider her decision, party sources told CNN.

Top members of Congress had resigned their party posts to put pressure on Gandhi to change her mind. But the Italian-born Gandhi stood by her decision, citing personal attacks on her heritage and Roman Catholic faith.

Unable to change Gandhi's mind, the Congress Party unanimously elected Singh to be its leader.

On Thursday, during his first address to the media as prime minister-designate, Singh called for humane economic reforms in India.

"Reforms are needed, I've always said that, but economic reforms with a human face that give India's common man a real hope," said Singh.

He also urged "most friendly relations with our neighbors, more so with Pakistan than with any other country." Both India and Pakistan are nuclear powers, and the two nations have fought three wars since 1947, two of them over the disputed territory of Kashmir.

"We must find ways and means to resolve all outstanding problems that have been a source of friction," he said.

Gandhi stood at Singh's side as he spoke to reporters.

"I think our country will be safe in Dr. Manmohan Singh's hands," she said.

Gandhi is the widow of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, who was killed in a 1991 suicide bombing.

India's newly appointed prime minister, Manmohan Singh, has been sworn in, marking the first time a non-Hindu has led the country.

New Delhi Bureau Chief Satinder Bindra contributed to this report.


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