NEW DELHI - India's ruling Congress party named Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee as its nominee for president on Friday. The political machinations over who should fill the largely ceremonial post of president have proven a major distraction for the government at a time when investors and business leaders have been demanding that it take prompt action on the economy. Congress, which has governed India for the most of the 65 years it has been independent, struggled to win support from key allies for its candidate. Analysts saw this as evidence of the weakness of India's grand old party in the face of increasingly powerful regional parties with their own agendas.
Mukherjee, 76, is expected to step down by June 24, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, 78, could take charge of his portfolio for the next several months, a source close to the finance minister told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
Singh's reputation as the architect of landmark economic reforms in 1991 that unleashed two decades of faster growth has been badly tarnished by widespread criticism of his leadership of Asia's third-largest economy. Critics say his government has failed to take concrete steps to rein in spending on subsidies and bring down stubbornly high inflation.
There is no obvious successor to Mukherjee, but analysts said filling the vacancy was less important than the government overcoming internal divisions that have led to policy flip-flops on major economic reforms and scared off investors.