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Indian leader's bypass surgery 'successful'

INDIA'S Prime Minister Manmohan Singh underwent successful coronary bypass surgery in New Delhi yesterday, while confusion emerged about who was in charge of government just months before a general election.

"The entire country is rejoiced because our Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh has come out, you know, successfully with the operation," ruling Congress party general secretary Veerappa Moily said.

The 76-year-old leader may be unable to return to work for several weeks, just as his Congress party prepares its re-election campaign for a general election by May.

Doctors at the hospital were due to give a briefing on Singh's condition late yesterday. No acting prime minister has been named while Singh is in hospital.

Some officials said Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee would take over most prime ministerial responsibilities, including defence, security and the finance portfolio, while Singh was recovering from the surgery.

"Pranab Mukherjee is in charge of the government until the prime minister resumes his duty," an official in the prime minister's office said. "This is normal procedure as he is the most senior member of the cabinet, so there has been no official announcement."

But a government spokesman insisted this was not the case.

"The prime minister is still in charge," he said. "Nobody has taken over his functions."


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