Free-marketeer to take power in India

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Indian PM Manmohan Singh vowed to prioritise ' socially inclusive and equitable' economic growth on Tuesday after newly-elected Congress MPs formally chose him as their leader for a second term.

Congress Party chief Sonia Gandhi proposed Mr Singh and MPs approved it without a vote, clearing the way for the swearing in of his new government this week.

Mr Singh is due to meet President Pratibha Patil on Wednesday to set a date for the ceremony.

An economist by profession, Mr Singh shifted India away from decades of socialist policies towards a more market-oriented economy when he was finance minister in the early 1990s.

Yesterday he described the election result as 'a verdict for inclusive growth, equitable development and a secular and plural India.'

Mr Singh said the global economic slump made it imperative that 'our growth process is socially and regionally inclusive and equitable, ensuring people of all regions, all religions, all languages and castes benefit from growth.'

The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition captured 261 seats in India's 543-seat parliament, 11 short of a majority.

Two key regional parties - Bahujan Samaj Party and Samajwadi Party, which together will control 43 seats - have offered to support Mr Singh's government.

Meanwhile, India test-fired a nuclear-capable missile on Tuesday with a range of up to 1,860 miles.

The surface-to-surface Agni-II missile, which can carry both conventional and nuclear warheads weighing up to 2,200 pounds, was launched from Wheeler Island in Orissa state.