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India: Pressure mounts on Singh over privatization

Prime minister faces growing discontent in coalition

Life is proving tough for Manmohan Singh. At home, India's prime minister is coming under increasing pressure from left-wing elements in the governing coalition over the government's privatization strategy. Abroad, he was virtually ignored by US journalists during a recent press conference with president George W Bush in Washington. The media were more interested in White House aide Karl Rove's alleged role in leaking the name of a CIA agent than in India-US relations. This was not how it was meant to be for Singh. A quiet intellectual and technocrat, he was asked to become prime minister by Congress party president Sonia Gandhi, following her victory in last year's election. Singh was the consensus choice; the man who had overseen India's first reform era when he was finance minister in the early 1990s. The hope was that he would usher in the next stage of reform that would see India properly challenge for a seat at the big boys' table.

That hope, though, is beginning to fade. A row over the sale of a state-controlled group is threatening to undermine his position and his relationship with Gandhi.

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