Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday is undergoing a complex heart bypass surgery in a premier hospital in Delhi under a team of expert doctors flown in from Mumbai and the operation is expected to last about eight hours.
"Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was wheeled into the operation theatre in the AIIMS at 5:30 am. The operation finally began at 7:15 am and is expected to last for 7-8 hours," Dr Sudhir Vaishnav, cardio-vascular thoracic surgeon with the AsianHeart Institute (ASI), Mumbai, told PTI.
He said an 11-member team from the ASI led by Dr Ramakant Panda was performing the operation on the 76-year-old leader at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi. The team comprises three more doctors and the rest are support staff.
Heart bypass, which the Prime Minister had undergone 18 years ago in London, involves grafting of arteries of veins from elsewhere in the patient's body to the coronary arteries to bypass atherosclerotic narrowings and improve the blood supply to the coronary circulation supplying the heart muscle. Six years ago, Singh had also undergone an angioplasty.
As the Prime Minister went under the surgeon's scalpel, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, the senior-most minister in the Union Cabinet after Singh, stood in for him and led the delegation-level talks with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev at Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Mukherjee said they were praying to God for quick recovery of the Prime Minister and expressed the hope he would resume the responsibilities soon.
Amid speculation over the leadership issue in view of the coming Lok Sabha elections, Congress party ruled out change of leadership in the Government.
Also, there cannot be two Prime Ministers under the Constitution, senior party leader Veerappa Moily said when asked by reporters why Mukherjee was not made officiating PM.
It was announced today that Defence Minister AK Antony would perform all the customary duties of the Prime Minister in all functions related to Republic Day.
There was no official word on the beating-heart operation but a press conference is scheduled in the evening.
Vaishnav said, "the name of Dr Panda was proposed because he specialises in arterial grafting and redo of bypass surgery and beating heart surgery. These are sophisticated surgeries and need high-level of expertise."
The team includes Dr Vijay D'Silva and Dr Narendra Garach of the AHI. Dr Sampat Kumar, a cardiac surgeon with AIIMS, is also involved in the operation.
Prime Minister Singh, who has been complaining of fatigue and signs of chest pain in recent days, had to undergo the surgery because the tests carried out on him showed blockages.
Meanwhile, hundreds of people from all walks of life on Saturday thronged gurudwaras across the nation to offer special prayers for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is undergoing coronary bypass surgery for the removal of blockages in his heart vessels.
Prayers were being offered in gurudwaras in Delhi, Kolkata, Amritsar and Guwahati for the successful operation of the Prime Minister.
In Amritsar, the Prime Minister's brother and other family members offered prayers at the Golden Temple for the success of his surgery.
Surjit Singh Kohli, the Prime Minister's brother, said they were leaving for Delhi to be with Singh after the surgery. "We hope to be with the Prime Minister when his surgery is over," Kohli told PTI over phone from Amritsar.
He said they had offered 'Ardas' (prayers) at the Golden Temple for success of the surgery and Dr Singh's health.
"We are also aware that millions of our countrymen and Punjabis the world over are praying for his good health," he said.
Local Congress leaders also held prayers early this morning at the Golden Temple for Singh's good health.
Both the Prime Minister sisters -- Naveen Kaur and Preetam Kaur -- also joined a mass prayer at a gurudwara in Kolkata for the successful heart surgery of their brother.
The two sisters accompanied by senior priests at Taratala Gurudwara in South Kolkata offered prayers at 9 am for the successful operation.
People also offered special prayers for Singh at a Gurudwara in Guwahati in Assam, which the Prime Minister represents in Rajya Sabha.
"All citizens of Guwahati irrespective of their faiths are praying for Prime Minister's health. We pray to God that he recovers soon and resumes office," a priest, leading special prayers in the Gurudwara, said. Prayers were also held in the national capital for the speedy recovery of the 76-year-old leader.
"Many people offered prayers at the Bangla Sahib Gurudwara (near Connaught Place), the Sisganj Sahib Gurudwara (in Chandni Chowk) and Gurudwara Gurunanak Pio (at GT Karnal Road), for the Prime Minister's successful operation and his speedy recovery," Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee (DSGMC) President Paramjeet Singh Sarna, told PTI.
Devotees of all age groups in Delhi gathered to offer 'Sangat' (mass prayer) and 'Ardaas' (request) early in the morning at near by gurudwaras.
The Prime Minister was wheeled into the operation theatre of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) at 5:30 AM today while the bypass surgery started at 7:15 AM.
An all faith prayer meeting was also held attended by a Garcha Gurudwara in South Kolkata at the instance of West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee (WBPCC).
WBPCC acting president Pradip Bhattacharya, who took part in the prayer along with WBPCC secretary Tulsi Mukherjee told PTI that members from different religion prayed for the successful operation of the prime minister.
"We also prayed to the almighty that the Prime Minister's operation ends successfully and he recovers quickly to take charge of the country," Bhattacharya said.