New Delhi -
Former finance minister Pranab Mukherjee was to be sworn as India's president Wednesday, with expectations that the veteran politician will breathe some fresh life into the largely ceremonial post.
The official candidate of the Congress Party-led ruling coalition, Mukherjee, 76, was elected president on Sunday after winning 69 percent of the votes cast by national and state lawmakers.
Under the constitution, the prime minister wields most of the executive power in India, but the president can send back some bills for reconsideration and also plays a guiding role in the process of forming governments.
This could be especially crucial in the next general election - due in 2014 - which is expected to produce a fractured parliament that will struggle to come up with a stable coalition government.
Mukherjee has a cross-party reputation as a skilled negotiator, and was described by leaked US embassy cables in 2009 as “the ultimate Congress Party fixer and operator”.
Wednesday's ceremony will see Mukherjee and outgoing president Pratibha Patil travel in a procession - accompanied by a marching band - from the presidential palace to parliament for the formal swearing-in.
After taking the oath of office in the presence of the chief justice of India and receiving a 21-gun salute, Mukherjee was to deliver an address to parliament before heading back to the presidential palace.
Although respected across party lines, Mukherjee's performance as finance minister was criticised for his failure to push through policies aimed at further liberalising India's economy.
His exit from the ministry to run for the presidency raised investors' hopes that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who took over the finance portfolio, would kickstart stalled reforms like opening the retail sector to foreign investment. - Sapa-AFP